Sunday, July 15, 2018

Changes and Downsizing

As I said last post, it is truly time to think about downsizing around here.  However, though it will save time in the long run on maintenance, downsizing is a lot of work, too.  

As a garden matures, changes happen whether the gardener wants them or not; trees grow larger than expected or die, sunlight or shade patterns come and go, plants need adding or removing.  

Yes, a garden has to change to grow.
As the gardener matures, change happens too.  Seemingly overnight,  joints aren't as flexible as they once were.  I swear this morning when I woke up, I felt like the Tin Man from the 'Wizard of Oz', all creaky and squeaky.  In order to keep this garden growing as we age, Carl is right.  We need to downsize.

The first big change we made this summer was the Bridge Bed.  
Going way back in time, our bridge at one time was truly over water when Carl and the boys dug our first rubber-lined pond by hand around 1999, seen below. 

That's Joel, floating in our old pond in a liner for yet another small pond.  
This was the first pond we had before we decided to dig the Quarry in 2001.   The pond had a rubber liner and a babbling brook flowing which the boys love to play in.  Looking back on this picture, I marvel at how many trailer loads of dirt we shoveled that year.  

After the Quarry was built, we decided to abandon the original pond, but since we'd done so much hard work with Carl building the bridge and the stone walls and the level change in the yard, we drained the water, removed the liner and turned the area into a dry 'riverbed' with flat rock simulating a stream going under the bridge and a sort of poor imitation of a Japanese-ish garden look.

I don't remember how many years went by on this incarnation of the Bridge Bed, but falling leaves necessitated removing the stones from the dry river bed every year and it was another maintenance headache. 

In the 1990's we also became interested in dwarf conifers, and the very first one we ever purchased is seen in the picture below on the right side of the bridge, Picea Glauca 'Fat Albert' which was a tiny little tree in a three inch pot when we bought it.

I'm also amazed at how quickly the Acer Triflorum aka 'Three-flowered Maple' grew; in the picture below, it is the yellow blob just to the right of the Dome in the Formal Garden, which in reality is a good fifty feet away.

The Bridge and Fat Albert circa 2008

July 2018

'Fat Albert' lived up to his name and also grew in height too.   Also, check out the Three-leafed Maple, now a tree much taller than the Dome in the background.  

It was more difficult each year to drive the lawnmower over the bridge due to the tree to get to the field for mowing and 'Fat Albert' was losing his interior needles and thinning out.   Should he stay or should he go?  Carl had been debating moving the bridge over to accommodate the tree, but I wasn't in favor as it would be even more work.

It was no easy decision to make, that's for sure, and we debated it for two years.  We've had many couples pose on the bridge for wedding and family photography over the years (there's our beautiful daughter-in-law, Abby on her wedding day, below) so the bridge has to stay where it is.  It's a fixture around here.

Our beautiful daughter-in-law, Abby in 2015

 What to do? 

Time for the chainsaw. Sigh.

We didn't make the decision lightly, that's for sure.  Once we began limbing the tree up, we could see how the interior branches were starting to lose all their needles, so it was only a matter of time before the tree was going to fail anyway, which made our decision a little easier.

'Fat Albert' is no more.
Though we hated to part with the tree, the area looks much nicer now. Since we removed 'Fat Albert', we were once again back in a debate of what we should do with the Bridge Bed.  This has been an ongoing discussion for years and years.  Carl wanted to take out all the landscaping and turn it back into lawn, which would have been a good idea, but the cedars shade everything so much making the lawn nonexistent. 

I suggested we transplant a Picea Glauca 'Pendula' from the front of the house to the space occupied by 'Fat Albert' to make up for the loss.  'Pendula' will be much narrower and won't eat the bridge.
Picea Glauca 'Pendula ' was out by the road
We have five 'Pendula' in the garden and every chance we get, we  add more.  They've been hard to find locally or even by mail-order the last few years, though.

We both like the look of the Picea Glauca 'Pendula' very much.  (I've included a link to some information on them.)  

This tree doesn't need staking the way Picea Abies 'Pendula' does, but we do love our Weeping Norway spruces, too.  Of all the trees in the garden, we get the most questions about them because of their narrow size and probably because our staking system is a bit loopier than people are used to.  Left untrained, a Weeping Norway would drape down to the ground, but if you're crazy like we are, you can stake them as high as you can reach.
Picea abies 'Pendula' aka Weeping Norway Spruce

Thing One and Thing Two are on their way out this year for good.  For anyone in need of MORE reading (as if my posts aren't long enough) here's a link to the post on the 'Things' from way back in 2010.  The Start of Thing One and Two

 Above are pictures of the two Things in better days.  I'm tired of weeding them and this year they are a mess.  But in order to eliminate the beds, the stone has to go.  Somewhere.   But where should the stone go?  We have a lot of stone around the farm, all piled up along our north lane on pallets in various stages of decay.  Neither of us wanted to add to the chaos, so we looked for a place in need of a stone formation similar to the Escarpment.

Well, Thing One and Two are on the move again.  

Carl and the Manley Wrecking Crane, working in the high heat and humidity for the last two weeks.
And where are they going?  

Well, in what we hope is a good idea, the stones are going into the Bridge Bed to hopefully form a smaller version of the Escarpment, seen below.

Carl always doubts himself when it comes to stone projects, 'What if it looks silly when I'm done?'  

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And I always tell him the same thing. 

 'Don't worry about it, you've had a little experience with rocks.'

2009---We were younger (and Sillier! then.)

Onward and upward with the downsizing; I'll keep you posted on how the next stone 'thing' turns out.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Itchy, Scratchy and Hot

Living in Wisconsin, you have to stay on your toes.  This spring has been a doozy.  Back in mid-April we were digging out from a record snowfall, and a little more than four weeks later, we were sweltering in ninety-degree heat. 

We had a nice break from the scorching sun for a few days after Father's Day, but the upper eighties and low nineties returned with a vengeance along with high humidity.  Ugh, the humidity. 

Even the flowers are sweating (OK, I lied, it's rain)
The garden is confused, along with the gardener.  Daffodil foliage is still lingering and daylilies are already blooming which seems early to me.  Peonies came and went with hardly a day to appreciate their blooms; the sun baked some of the buds and they never did open.

The Martagon lilies did put on a glorious show, though.

 When I was weeding among the martagons they rewarded me with their delicate perfume reminiscent of raspberries.  They have come and gone already, just a memory until next year.

Taking over where the martagon lilies left off, the Asiatic lilies are blooming in abundance now.


The daylilies are starting to bloom too, which helps lift my spirits when the sweat keeps running in my eyes while weeding.

The one thing we could really use (along with cooler temperatures) is some rain.  The high heat has been relentless and our sandy soil is drying out rapidly.  The long established perennials are doing alright for now, but the newly transplanted trees are suffering and I've been running hoses out to keep them all going. 

The annuals are having a hard time establishing themselves this year, despite a heavy mulch and frequent watering, they aren't happy.  Heat stress is hard on everything. 

We're still in the process of weeding and mulching which never ends around here until the snow flies, but this year with the heat and mosquitoes, the work has been brutal.  Though it sounds silly, and possibly unhygienic (just stay upwind of me when you visit)  I wear the same jeans and shirt for a week in the garden.  There's no point in changing clothes every day, in under an hour, the sweat and bug repellent have ruined clean apparel. 

The hardest part about getting dressed in the morning is putting on my filthy garden clothes.  Once I have them on, it's ok, but it's a mental challenge to don them.  And I still wear long sleeves and a hat all season long, too, in an attempt to foil sunburn and the mosquitoes.  

There's two-year-old Audrey and me, feeding the fish in the Quarry.  I often wonder how she recognizes her grandma in her glorious gardening garb.  Elegant, I am not.  Luckily, this was the first day I was wearing my garden clothes, so I didn't reek as bad as normal. 


 The fish appreciate Audrey's visits because she feeds them carefully and with precision.  

 But oh, the mosquitoes! They are oppressive which is really odd since we have had very little rain.  The fish in the quarry pond keep the larvae under control and I use a mosquito bait in my rain barrels, so I'm not raising any on purpose.  I have no idea where they are all hatching from, but everyone says the same thing.  We're all itching.  To avoid the heat, it makes sense to weed in the shade, but the buggers drive you out of the comfort zone almost immediately and back into the hot sun where their numbers are only slightly reduced.  

Carl has been the sensible one about the work around here for a few years now and I'm finally getting on board with his philosophy; we absolutely must downsize.  For the last several years, we've picked areas to eliminate and this year is no exception.  If the weather was always like this, it would really be a snap to say the heck with all of it, we're done, bring me some silk flowers and a pot full of styrofoam.   

Gardening is great exercise, and we both love it, but with all the other work around here with the addition of our parent's properties we have to tend, we can't keep up.  We feel like we're running a marathon which never ends, and that's not much fun.  I've been told gardening is supposed to be stress relief, not stress inducing, and if anything happens to either of us, maintenance will be downright impossible for one person.

Downsizing is not easy, though, because we have to make hard decisions on where the plant material will go.  Trees are hard to move and many of them were costly investments but happily, they have grown and provide much needed shade for hostas.  But some of the beds have to be completely eliminated.  More on that to come........