gardening


What’s written below, was written over two and a half years ago, but I guess I never published it.  I don’t even remember writing it, but I do remember the incident with the lizard and am glad he’s/she’s immortalized here.

So much has happened in those 2 1/2 years!  There’s been a whole lot more life and death in our garden and in our lives.  Both of my parents passed away, our first “daug-ter” died of cancer, and we got a new dog who has either solo or team-caught over 30 gophers and moles in the last six months!  What a great help.  We’ve also added five beautiful hens (their coop is the former mist-house of our former nursery) and now I carry aphids, slugs and snails down to them.  I am happy to have bugs to feed to the girls, and still amazed that they can take that stuff and turn it into “perfect protein” the next day.  And just last week I spotted two lovely long-tailed alligator lizards chasing each other through the citrus house.  Hurray, life over death!

So on a beautiful spring day, which happens to be our 18th anniversary, I’ll head outside again to check on the strawberry pot I just planted.  The pot was one thing I saved from my parents’ yard in those last minute decisions before the estate sale.  The bareroot plants were just purchased on our anniversary weekend trip, so together we’ve turned a tough memory into a good one.  I’ve learned a lot more about life and death in these last two years, and I’m sure God is not finished teaching me still more.

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About 2 PM today I realized I’d spent a good part of my day killing things.  What a revelation for someone who wants to grow and enjoy beauty and good food!  I guess good things come at a price.  It’s a few hours later and I’m still undecided on how to proceed.  Coupled with my murder-in-the-second-degree (it was an accident!) of a lovely alligator lizard last week who was hiding in my snail trap) I need to make some changes.  Maybe next year…

  • I will forget about trying to grow a winter garden of brassicas that are a magnet for cabbage butterflies and their green looper babies.
  • I won’t bother to start anything by seed directly in the ground so that the birds, slugs and earwigs won’t just eat them or mow them down before they even have a chance.
  • I’ll just wave the white flag to the gophers and voles.  Tracy claims that there’s only so much they can eat and that to be less stressed I need to accept a certain amount of “damage”.  The problem here is that gopher “damage” is usually terminal and since I’ve been the one catching them I know what we’d be up against next year if I had not done-in the 20 or more this year.  In this regard, a barn cat is looking ever more attractive to me if we can keep it from eating our songbirds poolside while they bathe…
  • I’ll fight the urge to squish every cucumber beetle and earwig.  So they eat the pollen in the flowers and notch the nasturtium leaves – they can have them (maybe).
  • I’ll stop stepping on snails and eco-baiting for slugs.
  • I’ll give up growing winter squash and pumpkins since they take up so much room and the gophers kill the plants.  We don’t even eat that much of these things, but it’s good for us and if I grow them we’re more likely to eat better, so…
  • I’ll just wait it out and whatever is left I’ll propagate more of and re-plant, maybe.

Well, it sounds good anyway, and certainly maybe worth a try…

As a special gift to me today, while watering the bed where I buried that lizard, another one scampered away from the spray.   Between that and the five tree frogs and the kale, sweet peas, roses and dahlias, there’s still plenty of life in the garden, too.  Nasturtium through balcony

The last few months the camera has been capturing a few strange things we’ve discovered while we work on our property.  I never cease to be fascinated (though sometimes I get a bit queasy!)

A month or so ago I saw what looked like a drunk crane fly flopping around the air on our front porch, then it landed on the house and I took a ton of photos hoping one would come out well.

Snakefly

I didn’t know what it was so I asked our trusty agriculture office and received Dave’s quick reply:

“Awesome picture!  Yes, I know that one, can’t be mistaken for anything else.  It’s a snakefly, order Raphidioptera, closely related to the lacewings (Neuroptera).  The larvae hunt in leaf litter with snake-like movement, hence the name.  Both young and adults prey on smaller insects, adult is a voracious aphid predator.  Doesn’t that brighten your day?”

It was certainly great news to know that those pincher jaws were going to be working hard for us!

Awhile later Tracy came from burning some fallen pine tree debris and opened his hand to show me this beauty.   We believe this is the larval form of nature’s stump grinder, one of the larger kinds of beetles known around here.  Wow!  and it really puts a visitor to Africa’s tale of being offered grubs for dinner in perspective.  Like I said, sometimes I can get kinda queasy…

As usual, the weeds/unwanted plants are getting way ahead of me.  We’ve had a lot of rain and a very cold spring, so the weeds are growing, but it’s not good weather for mowing or even being outside much.  However, last week I had an hour or two to weed after work (I just love these late sunsets), and I was thinning out the forget-me-nots and the blue borage in the front bed by the rosemary.  I should have been more observant, but thankfully stopped before going too far.  Deep underneath the borage and rosemary, built on top of the lavendula, was this beautiful nest of blue and brown speckled eggs: It  turns out that we actually have our own type of White Crowned Sparrow here in Humboldt County, and our property is definitely home to many of them.  Every year they find an interesting place to nest.  Usually it’s in a rose bush, which was problematic when Tracy was regularly spraying the outdoor roses (thankfully for all of us those days are over).  This year we can practically watch these ones hatch from the front window.  Despite my garden clean up I haven’t discouraged mom or dad from nesting, so that’s good, and I readjusted the remaining borage over the top of this to keep it somewhat sheltered and hidden.  It seems we’ve rarely had more than two eggs in a nest before, so if all of these ones hatch we’re going to see some very tired parents trying to keep them all fed!


Many people have asked us if we planned to hybridize our own roses and we always said no and went on to explain that it takes about ten years to save seeds, wait at least a year till they rooted and bloomed, then select varieties, test them in various climates, and finally propagate enough of them to meet the demand from a well-advertised (expensive) marketing campaign.  That said, we’ve firmly remained against starting a hybridizing program, but back in 1997 Tracy did hand me a Rugosa rose hip and told me to try my hand at hybridizing if I wanted to.  I think I left that hip in the refrigerator for at least a year and then broke it open and tossed the seeds in a flat of rooting medium in the shade.  A few plants came of it, but not until this year have we seen flowers!  Here I can introduce the first two of our very own rose babies:

Rugosa Baby #1

5 Hearts

It is rather exciting to realize that these two roses would never exist if we hadn’t saved that particular rose hip (which was pollinated by a particular bee, with pollen from other specific rose plants) then planted it and had patience to see what would develop.  There are three more plants yet to bloom, so we’ll have to wait and see what they turn out to be.  Time will tell if any of these plants are worth keeping around, how big they’ll grow and how they’ll do outside, but Rugosas tend to be a very hardy breed and good as hedge shrubs.

This post is a migration from our earlier blog, June 27, 2009

Garden Shot

Borage is that lovely blue star flower in the photo. I appreciate it every spring because it comes up on its own, and now I am blessing it in summer. This morning wasn’t the first time that I noticed how much the honeybees love all my borage plants. Yesterday the bees were still seeking out the flowers on the branches I’d pruned out and laid on the compost pile. Of course when I set out to take a picture today only the chubby bumble bee was present, but he’ll do for now.

Bee on Borage flower

If you’re concerned about the loss of honey bees (over a third of the hives in the US have disappeared – who shouldn’t be concerned?!) then I highly recommend planting some borage. Once you get it going it will come back year after year. It does reseed very well, but I find it very easy to pull out if it’s growing somewhere unwanted. Here’s a good site that Hagan Daas has created to help fund research into the cause of honey bee colony collapse: http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/

So, not only is Borage a rare true blue plant in the garden, the flowers taste like cucumber and look pretty sprinkled into salads, or frozen into ice cubes. And if blue isn’t for you, I exchanged a blue plant for a white one with a friend. Now the trick is to keep them separated so I’ll know which one’s seeds are sprouting in what part of the garden next year.

This post is a migration from our earlier blog, February 8, 2009

This is one of those postings I had planned for late last spring, but it’s just as appropriate now, because now we can actually get a handle on things and not have to live with my results of last year!

So, what’s the topic?  Weeds!

Humboldt County is known worldwide for one particular illegal weed, but it could easily be called the weed capital of the world for all the non-illegal ones thriving in our moist temperate area.  There is actually a town called Weed many miles east of us, but it’s much drier there and I bet we would easily beat them in a competition of most kinds of weeds.  It seems a new one shows up every year and it can easily gain a foothold in the garden.

weedsHere is the latest bane in my gardening life, Little Bittercress.  Actually there are at least four different weeds in this photo, but the Bittercress is the tall one on the left with the little white flowers.  I call it Rocket Weed because if it’s gone to seed and you try to pull it up, all the tiny seeds shoot up into your face and all over the garden to come back next year.  Argh…I can feel my blood pressure rising just looking at the photo!  So, yes, it’s better to get all weeds when they’re young, not just because their root systems are small and easier to pull up, but because they tend to go to seed quickly and you want to get to them before that!

Weeds on March

If you don’t, you get this little army of unwanted green marching into your pretty plot of irises.  Like anything or anyone testing the limits, it is TONS easier to keep them from invading, rather than trying to push them back out once they’ve already crossed the line. There are so many parallels to life you’ll just have to wait for my book someday… Tracy always says we have to have more Nos than they have Yeses.  It’s tiresome, but in the long run, it’s much less tiring than the alternative later.

And so, I resolved to use more mulch last year.  We got a beautiful load dumped from a local tree trimming company right around our anniversary, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I spent many weeks shoveling it around.  Unfortunately if there are weeds already growing and they have a strong will to survive, they will push through the mulch.  So, it was better, but not the best.

Weeds thru MulchI found that if I put down a couple sheets of newspaper before I spread the mulch I got better, longer weed prevention.  And since function often trumps fashion in my life, you’ll notice in a photo in the previous blog that I don’t always use newspaper.  We recycle a lot of cardboard this way, and recently I heard about using old carpet for pathways.  So, why not?  I’ll keep you posted!

This post is a migration from our earlier blog, February 4, 2009

First off, our first ever wholesale Bareroot rose shipment has come in and we’re turning them around as fast as we can. They are amazing #1 Grade plants from Weeks Roses. Tracy unpacked the huge boxes and exclaimed that these are the best he’s ever seen – beautiful canes and lots of roots. You won’t see anything like this coming out of a bag or box at your local drug store this year. Here’s a peak at what we’re proud to be able to ship to those of you who can take them this month and either plant them now, or pot them up and keep them protected until you’re safe to plant outside.Bareroot Grade 1 rose
The next little item of business is Pruning! I have always exclaimed that I love to prune – well, now that I’ve started to do it again this year I think what I mean is that I love to see pruned rose bushes. Annual pruning is really a very worthwhile and necessary chore as it gives us a chance for a real close look at our plants and how they’ve been growing the last year. There is no hiding that I did not feed some of my bushes well enough (or at all…) as I have lots of spindly growth to prune off. It’s also a great chance to look for cane damage and disease, and to get rid of it along with all

Dieback Wasp on rose

the fallen leaves that could be harboring disease spores ready to attack the plant when the conditions are right.

DiebackCane

And just to show a before and after bed of roses, this is a great shot as from left to right it has a Hybrid Tea, a Shrub and a Floribunda, so you can see how different they all look pruned. What a difference some weeding and a fresh coat of mulch makes, too.

Rose before being pruned
roses after pruning

Admittedly, I have had to prune a little lower than I usually do because of disease and twiggy growth. After doing a few pruning workshops with our local rose society, I’ve learned that it might be helpful to describe the finished Hybrid Tea as looking like antlers sticking out of the ground, or like an upward facing cupped hand. In general you want 3 to 6 good-sized, evenly-spaced canes around an open center. Here’s our hearty Pristine plant that is more typical of my thigh-high pruning.

Pristine Rose Pruned
Another option for pruning is to just lop 1/3 straight across the top. It’s better to clean out the center of modern varieties for healthy air-flow, but really, any pruning is better than no pruning at all. It rejuvenates your plant and tells it to get ready for a beautiful spring bloom. Be sure to clean off all leaves and throw them in the trash or burn them. Never compost rose debris! And a final tidbit from a pruning workshop attendee after we were all through. Prune off more than you think you should. It’s really very difficult to kill a rose bush by pruning it. Take this opportunity to remind it that you are the boss, and that you want a strong, healthy bush to support lots of flowers come spring.
Hmm, speaking of blooms, this post is sorely lacking, so here’s the last bouquet of 2008 on the eve of a good freezing night.

Final Roses of 2008
Now, finally Daphne, we’re off for that walk!

This post is a migration from our earlier blog: March 21, 2008

AHR Plants in Flats
As is typical, no matter when Easter lands each year it is a working day for us.  This year it will be the eve of our first shipping day of the season and it will be a long day.

Once we left the city life and found ourselves in the farming groove we’ve learned many lessons about following the seasons, respecting the weather and praying for whatever conditions we need at any particular time!  As you can read below, we had our first snow on our property in the seven years we’ve lived here.  The locals said that that was the most snow they’ve ever seen.  Fortunately it didn’t last, but the overall colder winter did put off the beginning of our shipping season this year.  Every year we vow to be earlier (we’re thinking of our customers in the deserts who want to plant in January!), but short of the added set up and expense of heating the coldframes we’re just plain dependent on what Mother Nature gives us each year.  It’s not so bad, and actually reminds me of my time I lived in China where we were advised to always be ready early, but be prepared to wait.  I guess that’s how farming goes too.Dream Come True rose

So far this season Tracy is most impressed with the new variety from Weeks calledDream Come True.  We certainly appreciate the professional photos provided from the hybridizers, but probably just like in your gardens, we’re eager to see the flowers WE have grown, and see what it looks like in OUR climate.  Tracy took this one at the end of last season.
Recently a customer and former neighbor in our city life asked to see more photos of our garden. Well…I am usually mortified by the amount and variety of weeds that we get here on the coastal prairie, and my attempts at complete eradication are tempered by the reality that no matter what I do, the weeds will blow in from the fields next door.  I was greatly surprised by the gushing comments of a friend who came to our open garden last summer.  She was grateful for the “new inspiration” for the historical Russ House and Garden that she and her husband maintain in Victorian Ferndale.  “New inspiration, here?” I thought to myself. I didn’t really get it until she sent some photos, and there in the photos the eye was drawn to the beauty as the weeds and unmanicured dead twigs were minimized.  Even I had to say “Wow” and really didn’t feel much pride in being responsible for it all.  We were fortunate to find this house which was previously owned by a serious gardener.  She put in great structure trees and shrubs while Tracy has done 90% of the rose plants.  I feel I have had modest trial and error impact as I can really only claim to putting the thing in the ground and doing minimal care.  Beyond that it’s all God’s mystery and glory.  Science can explain the hows and wherefores, but I don’t think they can explain the whys.  It’s for beauty and pleasure and sheer glory.  Plain and simple.
Backyard Summer 08Tying all my thoughts together for this Easter blog (are they supposed to run on forever, or am I making up for lack of recent posts and the knowledge that we probably won’t have a chance to blog again until the busiest of our shipping season is mostly over?) I would like to quote from John Eldredge’s book The Journey of Desire.  I’ve recently rediscovered this author and have read some more of his writings such as this, which is a perfect meditation for this Easter weekend.
LIFE IN ALL ITS FULLNESS
by John Eldredge

Eternal life – we tend to think of it
in terms of existence that never comes to an end.  And the existence it seems to imply – sort of religious experience in the sky – leaves us wondering if wewould want it to go on forever.  But Jesus is quite clear that when he speaks of eternal life, what he means is life that is absolutely wonderful and can never be diminished or stolen from you.  He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  Not, “I have come to threaten you into line,” or “I have come to exhaust you with a long list of demands.”  Not even, “I have come primarily to forgive you.”  But simply, My purpose is to bring you life in all its fullness…In other words, eternal life is not primarilyduration but quality of life, “life to the limit.”  It cannot be stolen from us, and so it does go on.  But the focus is on the life itself.  “In Him was life,” the apostle John said of Jesus, “and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

May we all find the One True fullness of life that we deeply desire when we’re quiet and can really think about what’s most important to us.  Happy Easter from our garden to yours.  He is Risen; He is Risen indeed!  Every bud and bloom, and even sprig of weed, are shouting “Glory!”
Fragrant Spring Balcony

Clutter – it often gets the best of me, but what to do when there are so many interesting things to learn and read about?  Recently I made a foray onto the dining room table.  It looked really good for my 50th birthday party, but has digressed since then.  We even removed all the table leaves so that there would be a smaller surface to hold clutter, but I underestimated the piling effect…

On the good side, clutter often does provide me with some happy coincidences.  Just yesterday I saw a bowl of floating roses that Tracy had brought in from the greenhouses – the first fragrant blooms of the season. The colors went perfectly with the watercolored birthday napkin I got the day before at my friend’s 90th birthday lunch, and the stuffed purple rabbit still sitting where he landed as a gift at my own party a month ago.  A little repositioning and voilà- a nice colorful composed photo to bring back good memories.Felicia, Barbra Streisand, Intrigue, Strike It Rich roses with Purple Bunny

The roses are (clockwise from top left) Strike It Rich, Barbra Streisand, Intrigue, and Felicia – all really fragrant.  Tracy is shipping bareroot roses almost every day right now.  At last count there were a few plants of 11 varieties still left.  He’ll have some other potted varieties available through spring and fall as they mature enough to ship.  Watch the shopping cart for earliest availability, or send an email from the Contact Us link and ask about a certain variety you’re looking for.  I am always amazed how he sells things that he’s only inventoried in his head.  I guess he experiences happy clutter coincidence too!

It looks like it would take too much time to figure out how to move the first blog (which I abandoned because of trouble uploading photos) to here, so I’ll just post the url for now…

http://www.amityheritageroses.com/blog.html

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