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Maintenance & Privacy

Other than planting 21 new plants, lately my efforts in the garden have focused on maintenance, which isn’t always a glamorous activity.

My area of Texas hasn’t had any significant rainfall since August 26th, and the ground is parched, so watering has become most important.

I’m also working on a variety of projects as is my neighbor, John.

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John’s recently built deck above.

John just added a deck to his cute train depot-like house located beside mine.  While he doesn’t live in this house, he has slowly worked to upgrade the home’s mechanical systems.  The house has a relatively new roof, new wiring, and new plumbing, so although it still needs other work, the mechanical systems are in prime shape.

John tells me he will eventually sell or rent the house. Wish I could buy it!

While I think the deck is a lovely addition, it comes with a price for me.  Have a guess?

Now with the deck in place, it’s much easier to see into my backyard.  Below are a few photos taken of my backyard from John’s new deck.

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With privacy in mind, one of my next projects will be to add privacy flags around the inside of the fence where privacy matters most.

I don’t have a photo to share of privacy flags, but basically, they are rectangular in shape and will hang 2 feet above and parallel with the top of the fence to provide screening.

I’ve also ordered four sections of lattice to install above another portion of my fence.

Finally, Build-A-Sign (which I can’t get to link) was running a 40% off special on their custom signs. I’m a fool for signs so I made two.  See below.

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Here’s wishing you the best for your garden!

 

 

 

 

 

Danger where you least expect it…

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Big, beautiful, & old pecan tree that I’ve had trimmed more than once.

No, I’ve not forgotten this blog, but my easy computer access is no more.

For the next six months, I will use a public computer and while I thought the public computers would be available this past Saturday, they were not because of America’s Labor Day holiday.

At this point, you’ve probably heard everything you ever wanted to hear about Hurricane Harvey. The storm put a lot of people in danger, and unfortunately, the problems and dangers caused by Harvey aren’t over yet.

I feel blessed Harvey didn’t impact my little town (Palestine, TX) more than it did.  At one point, we were told we might receive 7-10 inches of rain.  Instead, we received somewhere around 2″ (about 5 cm).

Once the wind & rain passed, it seemed the danger was over, and most of us in Palestine went back to our normal routines.  I know I did.

However, while I don’t want to be a “Chicken Little” and say “The sky is falling!”, it sort-of did in my garden a few days after the storm.

I was scraping the chippy paint from the table you see below when suddenly there was a loud thud about 5 feet (1.5 meters) away.  What the heck?

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At first, I was clueless.  What caused that sound?  And then I saw it:  A long limb had fallen from the pecan tree in the photo above, and it had fallen in the garden bed directly beside me.

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I feel so lucky that the limb did not fall on my head, neck, or back. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad as being hit by a hurricane, but it definitely wouldn’t have been good!

I’ve had this particular pecan tree trimmed, not once but twice. I keep an eye on it for dead limbs, but I never saw this limb up there.

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The rain made many of my plants happy including this Lobelia Cardinalis (above) who finally decided to bloom.  The hummingbirds and I were ecstatic.

Finally, there is another less obvious danger that I actually invited to my garden.  It brings to mind hot breath and fire, and it’s a project I’ve worked on for about a month now.  It didn’t turn out exactly the way I’d hoped, but then again, nothing is perfect.

Therefore without further waiting, I am pleased to introduce Montague, my new Watch-Dragon of the Garden.

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While I did not initially intend to put this dragon in a “house,” falling limbs make it a necessity.

My handyman knocked the dragon’s niche together and was extremely pleased with himself.  He said he’d never built anything like it before.  The niche has a few “issues,” but works for its purpose.

Currently, I’m waiting for my “Please don’t tickle the dragon” sign to arrive.

My hope for you is that all danger stays far, far away from your home, family, and your garden.  Be well!

 

 

 

 

 

Small Recycled Planter

I’ve always been partial to salvaged metal pieces used as garden art.  I’ve seen old farm implements, culvert pipes, tools, gears, and wheels–just to name a few–used as sculpture or as containers in gardens (sometimes in very upscale gardens), and I usually like the way these pieces look.

So early yesterday morning, I decided to take a slightly different route while walking my dogs. Altering my path by just one block led me to find something I like a lot.

In short, I stumbled upon part of a gutter’s downspout in the road. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Really, you got all excited about a piece of gutter?”

Well, yes.  ~Grin.~

In the past, I’ve saved gutter parts from the aluminum gutters installed at my former house. Those parts pretty much sat untouched in the shed for years.  I was sure I might need them someday, so I never threw them away.  Turns out I never used them for anything, and they stayed in the shed when I sold the house.  Maybe the new owner had the guts to throw them in the rubbish bin?  Or maybe, if she was the creative sort, she made something out of them?  I’ll never know.

So why now, when I’ve never used gutter pieces for any project, would I want a piece of gutter?

Answer:  Probably because this piece of gutter was absolutely cool.  It’s made of copper and has a wonderful patina; the kind of patina that takes years to appear naturally.

Although I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with it, you can be sure this metal scrap came home with me.

After lightly cleaning the gutter piece at home, I wasn’t happy that someone had cut the downspout off on the diagonal. I thought it ruined it.  However, as it turned out, that slanted cut and even the fact that it’s a bit uneven adds character and, in my opinion, gives it a jaunty look.  Judge for yourself in the photos below.

Because I didn’t want the gutter piece sitting around my house collecting dust for months, I came up with a quick solution. I made it into a planter, and it took me all of 45 minutes.

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In the box where I store my wire, was a short piece of copper tubing that went to an old space heater. I’d recently contemplated throwing the tubing away.–SO glad I didn’t!

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The copper tubing became a handle and fortunately for me, I had a bit of copper wire to attach the handle.  (The copper wire will eventually oxidize to a brown color.)  I used all of this, along with a small piece of perforated aluminum sheet metal, to make a hanging planter.

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Above: Scrap of perforated sheet metal.

I think the planter is cute, and I plan to put a succulent or possibly a small hanging plant in it. Possible locations for hanging it are either on the fence or beneath the deck railing.

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Above: Perforated sheet metal wedged inside of gutter to hold soil.

If my homemade planter isn’t your style, that’s okay.  We all have different tastes.

For other ideas using metal in your garden (salvaged or otherwise), feel free to look at the following links (some are blog posts from other gardeners):

http://www.thedangergarden.com/2016/08/the-potential-at-rebuildng-center.html

https://www.1001gardens.org/2016/08/20-easy-diy-gutter-garden-ideas-6/

http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=44452

http://www.penick.net/digging/?s=galvanized+containers

http://gh-clock.com/2017/03/31/using-salvaged-metal-in-your-garden/

Hope your day is a good one!

 

Potluck Post with Something for Everyone

Even with today’s eclipse, the sun has been stepping on Texas like a foot grinding out a cigarette.  That is to say, the ground is hot!  I’m looking forward to the end of August and the start of autumn.

I think if you read other Texas gardening blogs, you would find a post or two in each covering our summer heat and the ever present need to water.  It’s this way almost every August, but we gardeners still like to complain about it.—It’s a rite of summer passage.

So, I’ve been watering and watering and watering!  Nothing new, right?

Lately, I’ve not been having a lot of good luck.  I realize, of course, I’m not the only one who has an occasional rough spot.  We all do, but it’s important for me not to give a false impression of the perfect life and/or garden.  Far from it.

My red hot torch lilies (I have 3), Kniphofia uvaria, aren’t looking too hot at all, and I don’t know why.  They receive full sun in well-drained soil.  If you have answers as to why these plants are in decline, please chime in.IMG_1663

Red Hot Torch Lily above.

Then there is my Karl Foerster grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster, that seems to be browning.  Again, I have no idea why.  That’s not to say I’m giving up on Karl or the torch lilies because I’m not.  I’m just disappointed.

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Karl Foerster grass above.  Is the brown normal for this grass?

My hellebores appear to be puny, and I thought they were bulletproof.  Phooey!  It could be that it’s the August heat.  This is my first experience growing hellebores so my knowledge about them is scant.

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Above: Hellebore with brown-ish leaves.  Sun scald???

If you’ve gardened for any length of time, you know there will be plants with issues and/or plants that die, and you take it on the chin and keep on “keeping on”. If any of these plants don’t make it, I’ll replace them with something else, but of course I don’t want to.

Before I forget, I need to let you know that because of a significant increase in cost, I’m not renewing my contract with my Internet Service Provider, so I will be accessing my blog from a different computer, which may cause a delay in responding to your comments or for me to comment on your blog posts.

Finally, with all of this, plus a letter from my good friends at the Internal Revenue Service and the possibility of a torn retina, I’ve been slow to post.  I fully believe everything will have a happy ending, but I’m still slogging through these issues just as I’m slogging through August to get to September when the temperature will cool.  Hurry up and get here, September!!!

On a more positive note, I asked my neighbors at the Kolstad Inn if I could photograph their new flagstone path, the one that is replacing those stepping stones I was given (previous blog post).  They gave me permission to take photos but hinted they preferred I take photos when the path is finished and looking its best.

Having just received my copy of Fine Gardening Magazine, I read a reader’s complaint that no one ever takes photos while a project (a garden, a pathway, a wall, etc.) is in progress, so I took some in-progress photos of the pathway.

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Above:  Flagstone paths don’t just magically appear.  They take a lot of effort. My neighbors have been working hard.

The flagstones will be cleaned off with muriatic acid once all of the stones are cemented into place.  Yes, I’ll take a finished photo, but these photos allow you to see the work-in- progress.  I think the readers of this blog are mature enough to know the path won’t look its best until it is completely finished.

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Another photo of the flagstone path above.

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Above:  I’ve used some of the stepping stones from the Kolstad Inn as edging for my new front bed.

Also in the progress of “becoming” (reminds me of Stephen King’s book, The Tommyknockers) is my new backyard garden area. I took a few photos this morning so you can see it’s still in its infancy and growing S-L-O-W-L-Y.

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View from the back of the newly planted area, which is about 3-4 months old.

Finally, I rescued a pot from the curb and never removed the soil inside.  The pot belonged to a 95 y/o woman who was placed in an assisted living facility.  Now, I see this strange plant growing in that pot.  I wasn’t sure what it was, so I’m letting it grow for a while…

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Above: Rescued pot.  Could the plant be a potato vine?  No, as it’s grown bigger I saw it was not a vine.  Could it be a weed?  That’s very possible.

It looks a tiny bit like a hibiscus. Any ideas?

Out Two-Steppin’

Remember these?

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These are the stepping stones my kind neighbors gave to me so they could replace them with a flagstone pathway.

I like these stepping stones. However, they’re quite heavy and were all originally placed in my front yard when I decided the majority of them needed to go in the back.

So….I made a simple plan to move two at a time to the backyard, and to install at least four per day.–By “install” I mean digging out the soil to level them and making sure they were set an equal distance apart heading in the right direction.

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The photo above is at the start of the path.  If you look at the ground to the left, you can see the little red wagon used to transport two stepping stones at a time.  The plants in the foreground are Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, which have small red flowers that are loved by the hummingbirds, Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is climbing the tree, and there’s a cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior, to the right of the arbor.

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Above:  Here’s the new path from the arbor down to the new planting area.  (Yes, the photo shows I need to mow and I did, after taking this photo.)  Anyway, I’m certain I’ll need to re-level or move a few of the stones at some point, but in general, I’m pleased with how they look.  I used 18 stones altogether.

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Above: The view looking back toward the house.  The ultimate plan is to plant bulbs and wildflowers  to either side of the stepping stones.–The Tyler, Texas fall bulb sale sponsored by the Smith County Master Gardeners may be just the ticket for purchasing bulbs. I’d also like to put some large river rocks between the stepping stones, but that may not happen any time soon especially since I can’t seem to find any locally.

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The path’s destination is this bench.   Looks a bit lonely doesn’t it?  Hmmm…Maybe it needs a large pot to either side or maybe that’s too much or maybe the tray above the bench is too tiny?…I’ll figure it out.

Life doesn’t just revolve around MY garden.  What kinds of paths do you have in YOUR garden?  What garden projects are you working on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog that No One Wants (Off Topic)

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Homeless dog at my door.  I think she’s wishing she could come in and join my dogs.

My town has a dog and cat problem.  While there is a humane society, it’s not “no kill,” and the statistics are grim.  Almost every month, 160-250 animals are euthanized at the local shelter.  I can say this with certainty as I see the numbers at every humane society board meeting.  I personally think this is shocking, but perhaps it’s not uncommon for small Texas towns.

People either don’t want to spay or neuter their animals because, “Oh, I think she should have at least one litter first” or because “He’s a boy. He ain’t having puppies. It’s not my problem.” or simply because the cost to spay and neuter is high.

Let me stop here to say that I’ve read people are far more interested in stories about cats than dogs, so if you’re one of those people, simply pretend I’m writing about a cat.  In a way, I’m writing about all of the homeless animals that no one wants.

Anyway, the dog above is homeless and the mother of three puppies–if they’re still alive.  She’s been wandering our neighborhood for a couple of weeks now.  The neighborhood sees her and mostly ignores her.  Isn’t that awful? I include myself in that.

The dog catcher has been called (not by me) and says he can’t catch her. –I’m not sure that’s true since I petted her, but currently the shelter/humane society is at capacity so they don’t have room for her anyway.

Knowing the number of animals put to death at the local shelter, I am loathe to take her there.  It’s almost a certainty she won’t be adopted and that she will end up as one of the 160 to 250 monthly “statistics.”  I can’t face that. There is also a high chance her puppies will end up with Parvo if they go to the shelter.

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Mama dog eating the dog food I put out for her.

On the other hand, what kind of life does this dog or her puppies stand to have living on the street? Not a good one.  I’m torn.

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There is a backstory to this. When I first moved here, I rescued a mama dog and her five puppies and delivered them all to the local shelter.  I thought I was doing such a good thing.  They were all promptly put to sleep. Not one survived. I didn’t know this was going to happen, and I felt horrible for a long time afterward.  Yes, I cried. A lot.

As you can see from the photos, I’ve been feeding her and giving her water.

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She looks at me as I walk by with my dogs and her eyes say, “Hey, I’m here.  I’m a nice dog.  Can I come with you? Could I be part of your family?”  There is hope in her eyes as she follows a short distance behind me.  And then I close my door and my heart on her.

What kind of a person am I?

I cry because I have three dogs, and I can’t take on another one.  I just can’t.  I’m at capacity too.  My neighbor next-door has five dogs.  A friend here has more than 30 cats. (Please don’t judge this friend because her house and yard are extremely clean despite what the image of owning 30 dumped and stray cats might conjure. She spends half of each day cleaning and hundreds of dollars out of her own pocket to spay and neuter them.)

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My three dogs who aren’t supposed to be on the bed. (Sorry for the poor photo quality.)

So why am I telling you this?  My hope is you spay or neuter all of your animals so sad little dogs and cats like this homeless one aren’t the end result.  Also, If you’re going to get a pet, please make your next one, one that comes from an animal shelter.

Finally, to feed her puppies, this homeless dog killed a chicken.  In her circumstances, I can’t say I blame her.

Below is a poem I wrote about what I see as I walk my dogs and how sometimes we refuse to see our social problems.

Where Your Chicken Went

I will never tell you where your chicken went

(Stinking to high heaven on the street between Sycamore and Pine)

Mama dog with three puppies beneath a car

In a town, apathetic.

And the trucks park as yard decoration

In the grass with the flowers in a row by the curb.

I will never tell you where your chicken went.

Meth addicts wave from their perches and porches

Saying “howdy-do!”

Eyes eating, searching, picking

As the church pews are filled with those who self-serve

In the cafeteria of God–Free Meal–Only beef, no chicken please

With a glass of iced tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water and Gardening go Hand in Hand

I woke up Wednesday morning to a slow and gentle rain; the kind that makes gardeners smile.IMG_1609

Water from Wednesday’s rain collected in my stock tank.

When it comes to July & August, Texas is a cooker.  I feel fortunate I live in east Texas versus central Texas where I lived previously.  On the whole, Central Texas has always been hotter and drier than east Texas. This year was no exception.

This summer, Central Texas experienced several over 100-degrees F (38 degrees Celsius) days, some of which were record breakers.  In contrast, my little town has yet to break 100 F/38 C.  We’ve also seen far more rain than Central Texas.

For most of July, I watered the in-ground plants every 4 days, and the potted plants get a daily drink.  Watering everything can take a couple of hours, so I work to get it done in the early morning when it’s cool, and of course, any drops of rain are deeply appreciated at this time of year.

I water by hand using a garden hose.  I’d love to know how you water.  Is your water costly? Does your area suffer from droughts and if it does, do you do anything special at those times?

Water can be expensive in Texas depending upon where you live.  There have been private corporations that purchased the water sources for small towns and subsequently increased the prices to outrageous levels.

That’s not happened here, thank goodness.

Apparently, our town wants to conduct a rate study for water and would like to install new water meters. Does this mean our water bills will rise?  Maybe.

Related to the water meters, I came across this fake news article that made me chuckle. I thought you might find it funny too.

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Newly planted (June) Globe Thistle, Echinops Ritro, in mulch.

Most of my in-ground plants are mulched with wood chips.  Some may not need as much mulch once established.

From time to time, I read plant articles from other areas of the U.S. with a negative bent given to mulch. Yes, mulch can be ugly, but I believe it is almost essential for healthy plants in Texas.  I’m guessing other areas of the U.S. get more water than Texas, and their hot temperatures aren’t as extreme and don’t last as long.

All of this post is to say, I think as gardeners it’s important to look at how much water we use and to find clever ways to reduce our water consumption or waste when possible.   I do believe in climate change, and I think water will only become more valuable as time goes by.

Finally, unrelated to water, my Kolstad Inn neighbors gifted me all of their concrete stepping stones, which they plan to replace with flagstone.  I was very happy to get them, and I believe I can use them all.

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Above: Stepping stones from my neighbors at the Kolstad Inn.

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Above: A few stepping stones put into place.

I’d love to add black Mexican beach pebbles around the stepping stones, but they don’t sell them here or in Tyler, TX, our closest big city.  In fact, when I called a Tyler, TX gravel yard to inquire about them, the guy said, “No, we don’t have them.  They cost too much.”  Bummer!

Happy Blogging!