Monday, April 23, 2012

The Festivities

My new Shrub Bed
Today is my birthday, and my birthday weekend has been quite festive. Through no fault of my own I did not have to work Saturday, so Shana and I have had the entire weekend to have fun except for a few scheduled errands and one trip to the office for Shana.

Saturday morning we went out for pancakes and then on to the selection of by Birthday Bushes. The original plan was to purchase and install my new shrub bed on Monday, but with a beautiful sunny day forecast for Saturday and solid rain Sunday through Tuesday a change of plan seemed indicated. We planned on going to Mahoney's Garden Center in Falmouth, which has a terrific selection, but I was also set on visiting Cape Cod Wholesale Nursery just up the street from Mahoney's. I always see rafts of cars going in and out, so I was sure it was worth a visit (Cape Codders are very "value conscious"!). Once in I found it to be much larger than I expected, with all kinds of shrubs at excellent prices. In every category that interest me I found loads of shrubs to choose from, and all looking healthy and robust. My main problem was selecting shrubs without going mad and picking recklessly!
Our kitchen garden

My selection for my new bed was: two white rhododendrons (Rhododendron Chionoides), a white variety of modest size, one mountain Laurel (Kalmia Latifolia 'Peppermint') a moderate sized laurel with pink and white striped flowers for the front row of evergreen shrubs. For the back row of larger shrubs: one Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') a filbert cultivar that grows only 8'-10' tall with corkscrew branching to provide winter interest, and one Ivory Halo Dogwood (Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo'), a dogwood with variegated leaves, red branches for winter interest and a very moderate size - only about 6' tall. I've added a couple of little hydrangeas from my late MIL's garden to the back row for summer color. It will take a few years for the bed to mature, but they are all good looking shrubs already.

Flower bed with no space to spare
Shana selected some herb plants and we went on to Mahoney's for pots and lettuce plants. We picked out a fancy-shmancy pot system for the fancy-shmancy lettuces and some more ordinary pots for the herbs. I already have a big pot of mint on the deck, so our kitchen garden it pretty comprehensive. I also slipped in an Alchemilla vulgaris (Lady's Mantle), which is meant to be a medicinal plant although I just love it for its leaves that open up like little umbrellas. My Alchemilla is not going to live with the herbs, it's tucked in near the Stella D'Oro day lilies where its flowers will echo the yellow blooms.
Bed with Giant Forsythia

I had dug up some "starts" last week when I was in Falmouth - some heather, some offshoots of hydrangea and oakleaf hydrangea, and some day lilies which I had tucked under the deck in a plastic tub to wait for a good planting day. Those went into the ground as well. The oakleaf hydrangeas are the start of a hydrangea and hosta corner in a damp and shady back corner of the yard where I hope to have a cozy seating area in future. A six inch tall start of a hydrangea does not look like much now, but after I get a few more in there and a few years of growth I have great hopes. Gardeners play the long game, after all!
Roxy has no interest in gardening

Shana tells me that my main flowering bed is full, and I must agree, but I have started a bed of sun lovers right next to the deck where I plan to indulge in a wild profusion of blooming plants. I've got space to spread out there. My main concern with this area is that is is right behind our shed and I suspect a skunk may be living under the shed. I don't want to come face to face with our "renter" under any circumstances!

I started the day today with a proper biscuit and gravy breakfast and will end it with an Indian dinner. Perfect meals for a celebratory weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Goodnight & Goodbye

This week in addition to Dick Clark, who's all over radio and TV we also lost Levon Helm.

Dick Clark was arguably more famous, but it's anybody's guess which is a larger loss.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Beauties

Spring seems to be here for real, and new projects with it. I finally finished Vivian's Big Pink Afghan and got it out in the mail. I think it turned out well and that Vivian will love it, but I have to admit that I got tired of it before it was finished. I suspect it's just because I've had so many blankets in the queue this year. I still have one on the needles, and when it's done there will be no blankets with deadlines for a while. I'll be starting my Christmas knitting because I love to have the gift inventory build up without pressure. There is also the matter of a naked monkey whose pajamas have been on the needles for more than a year. Shana has been very patient, but poor Mr. Foster the monkey must be cold.

I picked our road bikes up from their yearly tune up on Friday, but haven't been for a ride yet. If the weather holds next week will see me getting back out. We'll see how hard a year off the bike has been on my endurance. If I had not been doing the strenuous stockroom work that I recently have it might have been worse, but I expect  to be very disappointed in my riding for the first month or so. I've been picking everyone's brains about good safe routes. I can't wait to get out and see for myself.

After Stitch & Bitch today Wanda and I went out for a stroll through Spohr Gardens. I had never been there and wanted to be sure to get there before the daffodils were finished blooming. It's a lovely spot and well worth a visit. It's so much the ideal of what I would want my garden to be and really far from what my garden can be. Spohr Gardens is only six acres, but so beautiful and well laid out that it seems much larger. It helps that it is laid out on a hill and along a pond. The property also has a lot of old millstones attractively displayed, both as sculpture and as part of walkways. These are not something I can afford or accommodate in my space, but I did get some good ideas from how they were used.  My lot is only a quarter acre, but with a variety of exposures available I have hopes of making it something beautiful.  This year I will put in a shrub border in the front yard and the beginnings of an herb and cutting garden on the south side of my deck. A water feature would be nice...probably I will put some kind of smallish fountain on the deck. When I got back home I "planted" some columbine and viola seeds. I've got more seeds to get in, but I want to wait until I can get my irrigation system turned on. We are still in a drought, with the nearly daily rains I expected not materializing. We are not even getting rain once a week. Although I thought I could turn on my irrigation and outdoor faucets myself it turns out I should have taken better notes. I'll be calling the guys Monday to schedule a visit. Once I can water I'll be outside in earnest making beauty appear in my yard.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Pinkest Thing I've Ever Made

I'm nearly finished with Vivian's afghan, and nearly finished with the whole idea of pink. It's the second pink blanket this year, and easily the pinkest thing I've ever made. This is not a great picture - it's not quite finished and hasn't been washed, but the color (as it shows on my screen) is correct. It really is this pink. She asked for pink and purple with flowers and that's exactly what she's getting! I may put another couple of rows on it and then put a shell edging around it. It's not an adult size afghan, but it's not an adult style either, so I don't feel bad about winding it up at a smaller size. When she's grown up she can ask for something suitable for her age.

So far this week at work has been physically strenuous. One of the stockmen and I checked in 142 boxes from UPS. The UPS guys offload the truck, but we have to get everything on carts, into the building, and distributed to the correct aisles in the stock room. Because 142 boxes (and rugs) were too many for our four big carts I ran a couple of them downstairs and offloaded them onto the floor so we could reuse the carts. By the time we got everything distributed around the stockroom I had probably moved the equivalent of  250 boxes, not counting the ones I had emptied earlier in the day before the truck came. When I came home yesterday at noon the few minutes I was in the car was enough to make me stiff all over. Probably a sign that I need more exercise.  I didn't do much yesterday afternoon, but today I had to get out for some walking to loosen up. Lucky for me the weather was perfect. These perfect days before the summer people arrive are golden, and I try not to let many get away without taking Roxy for a walk in the woods or on the beach, or both.

Today Roxy and I visited the Jehu Pond Conservation Area, which is part of the Waquoit Bay Estuarial Reserve, and a wildlife refuge. The paths are broad and well maintained, and areas which are restricted are clearly marked. Given the number and enthusiasm of the local tick population I am not all that tempted to leave the main trails in any wooded area. I was hoping to see some birds, but with Roxy snuffling along I imagine most birds quite sensibly left the area.  Once we returned to the car we went on the the Mashpee Town Beach for a walk along the shore, with a short detour into the dunes. It's getting close to piping plover nesting season, so trails through the dunes are not available although we could walk around on the larger trails. Someone was apparently taking a nap in the dunes. When I passed I saw someone lying there and had to go back for a second look. I thought that a normal person would not be out there so maybe it was a dead person. Fortunately he moved and I went on with my walk.