Friday, November 25, 2011

Still Giving Thanks

My wife has done most of the Christmas decorating
during her short periods of energy. She even basted
the Christmas valance to the curtains while they were
still hanging!

This Thanksgiving week has been the first time in four years I have been at peace for more than a few hours at a time. Things were so good, I even managed to smile while doing my last minute Thanksgiving shopping.

Things went so well that I got most of Thanksgiving dinner done on time, except the jello. I always forget the jello! The food was good despite a close call on the rolls. I even got to take my wife on the longest walk we have taken in over fifteen years.

Why was this such a peaceful holiday? It has much to do with what is not happening as well as with what is happening. First, I am not deployed. Second, I am not recovering from deployment. (It takes a year for me to get over it.) Third, my wife is not experiencing mysterious, weird health problems. Fourth and finally, the no-longer mysterious diabetes and cancer are responding well to their respective treatments.

All of this amounts to a chance to slow down and be happy.

Things are still dicy on several levels. My wife is not out of the woods regarding cancer, and she never will be. Rumors of a second deployment are increasing. Life in general is always unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. And worst of all, I have to find a way to support my family through the coming winter! Gardening as a trade is a wonderful pleasure, but it will never be stable.

But even with those fears, I am thankful. I would especially like to thank my wife, who cut back on housework and cooking, but tenaciously fights to keep on doing the dishes and laundry. Special thanks to my daughter, as well, who has picked up more of the housework and did a great job of helping me get Thanksgiving dinner together. (She was the one who finally wrangled the jello into the refrigerator.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The End of Landscaping

The concept of a garden seems to be increasingly lost in America. Instead, we prefer plenty of carpet-mown grass with kidney-bean shaped tree and shrub beds plunked in the middle. We lovingly call this 'landscaping' to try and connect ourselves with the great painters of the past.

Well, at least some people stay true to the idea that a garden should be a unique endevor. And some of those are bold enough to use them for food as well!

These photos are great for stimulating design changes in next year's garden:

These folks are getting serious about food.

This resident shares food with his neighbors, they never 
complain to the city.

This wins my prize for best use of a boulevard

This garden is near my house. I look
forward to seeing the changes as the
summer progresses.

A bit of the wild look.

Food and beauty. These folks have it together!

Friday, November 11, 2011

If You Must Poison a Tree...

If you must poison a tree, do it right! Most of my readers prefer organic methods, but once in a while a stump is in a difficult spot, cannot be visited regularly enough, or is maintained by someone so feeble that poisoning is a justifiable option.

Here are a few steps to doing the job right:

Consider whether poison is the best option. Most of the time a truly organic option is best. A thirty dollar pick and an hour swinging it would take care of this stump for good. The pick will last a life time, but a bottle of weed killer costs between ten and twenty dollars and has a limited shelf life.

Understand the biology of the tree. The wood where this cross has been cut has tubes transporting water and nutrients up the tree. The green layer under the bark transports water and sugar down into the roots. Put the poison only on the green portion where it will go down into the roots.

Minimise the amount of poison you use. If some is good, more is not better.

Plan for re-sprouting. You may find it is better to cut the sprouts down every two weeks, than to cut and poison them every four weeks.

Anytime you use a chemical, even an organic one, it should be the last viable option. What is viable is your determination, but chemicals should never be your first and most trusted options.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Small Green Job

As a gardener I have to provide a wide variety of services to keep myself busy most of the year. The fall can be problematic because things aren't growing, nurseries are often out of plants, deciduous trees are at a risky time to prune, and most clients don't realize what a great time it is to design.

Fortunately, lowering the ears on an Austrian pine is not a plant health taboo in the autumn.


The trimmings filling the back of The War Machine.

The trimmings at the green waste disposal for recycling.
This job was small, but I had great fun after all the boring mowing I did this summer!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Please Meet a Few of My Friends...

An Austrian pine in a local park.

Fall is the time of year to start designing next year's gardens. To help you with your designs I would like to introduce you to a few of my friends:

Big tooth maple is one of the best trees for Utah homes. It is short so it does not overpower the house, has awesome fall color, and if you wait long enough it can be tapped for maple syrup. It will be a long wait though, this is one slow growing tree!

Bur oak is one of the grandest trees imported to my area. It has few breakages, does not let the pests bother it, and provides abundant food for those who have the patience to collect it and leach the tannins out of the acorns. Its downfalls are that it is big for the average quarter acre lot and the acorns make dangerous ammunition for the kids.

European beeches come in different styles, colors, and shapes. Leaves can be green, deep bronze, or touched with pink around the edges. In form it can be oval, columnar, or weeping. The nuts are edible, but small and hard to get at. The bark is a smoothish gray that makes you want to reach out and touch it. The lower branches should not be removed since they protect the trunk from winter sun scorch.

Gingko is a mixed up tree. It is never sure what shape it wants to be and is regularly accused of changing its gender. Its leaves are to die for though, they have veins in them that run in such a way as to give the tree the name maiden hair tree. These leaves turn gold in the autumn and pave the ground in such a way as to prove the world has magic. 

The one downside to this tree is that the male tree that you bought might decide to prove its femininity somewhere around its twentieth year. The fruit stinks worse than just about anything I know.

Honey locust is a landscape workhorse. Despite its heavy use I still love it because the feathery leaflets let sun shine down on plants growing under it. It has wonderful fall color that is a cinch to clean up in planting areas because the leaflets are so small you just leave them in place. 

Honey locust faults include shallow roots, a tendency to sucker, and vicious thorns on some of the younger branches and all of the older varieties. Of course the best varieties have marvelous corkscrew seed pods that have sweet, honey tasting pulp inside. Good for man and beast!

Crab apples exist in enough varieties to satisfy any taste. And many of them have tasty crabs. Enough said!

Eastern red bud is a friend from the other side of the country. It is small enough for many of today's small lots. The green pods are supposed to be good for people food and the older seeds can be used for the animals. The best thing about the red bud is the hot pink flowers in the spring. 

As I organize my photos, I will be introducing you to more of my friends....