Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soggy Spring Crazies

I went to the dentist this week for a routine cleaning.  I almost forgot about the appointment; it was on the one day we didn't have any rain for about five minutes.  I had to quickly run from the garden to wash up and get ready to go (along with the obligatory flossing, yeah, that will fool the dental hygienist into thinking I floss every day, right?  Well, I try to remember, truly I do.)

When I arrived at the dentist's office and the receptionist's desk, she handed me a clipboard containing a questionnaire I needed to fill out regarding any changes in my life such as health, address, insurance, etc.  I smiled at the two gentleman already seated in the waiting room and took the clipboard to a seat  next to a table stacked neatly with magazines.  A glossy, gorgeous garden gleamed from the cover of a new-to-me gardening magazine.  I couldn't wait to get through the paperwork so I could gaze at the beautiful garden.   My dentist's office has the best magazines and they're always the latest issues, too.  I quickly filled out the form and returned it to the nice receptionist when I was done.

I was just about to lower myself into the chair when she called me back, "Oh, you probably didn't notice, but there are two more pages for you to fill out."

Whoops.  I retrieved the clipboard and went back to my chair.. I zipped through the next two pages, filled in the appropriate information and returned the form.

I was headed for the magazine.

Not so fast.

"Karen, you forgot to sign and date the form.""

Grinning sheepishly at the receptionist and the mildly curious gentleman still waiting in the room with me, I went back up and did as I was bid.  Thinking I was surely done, I handed the clipboard back to her one more time and was ALMOST to my chair and that magazine when I heard the patient receptionist say, "Uh, Karen?   You put the wrong date down, it's May 22, not April 22."

Red-faced, I trotted up to the desk one more time and corrected my mistake. 

At least I had my name right.  (I checked.)

And then the hygienist called my name.  Time to get my teeth cleaned.  

But the date thing wasn't my fault.  It doesn't feel like May outside.  It feels like April.  It's cold and wet and damp and rainy.  We had snow until almost the first of May and now we're having April Showers which should be bringing May Flowers, but instead the incessant rain is holding me up from getting all the work we need to get done before the busload of Master Gardeners (cue the trumpets--the title Master Gardener or MG, for short, just sounds so Official) arrive in less than eight days on June 4. 

Eight days.  And all it wants to do is rain.  There's a chance of rain every day for the next week. 

Oh, boy.  Look at the lawn--this was taken on Sunday after the big hailstorm and two inches of rain we received after the half inch of rain the night before:

The ground makes sad squishy-squashy sounds when you walk across it, like stomping on a wet sponge.  Today the temps never rose above 56 degrees and at night we're still dropping down into the upper 30's with frost warnings.  The cold nights aren't terribly unusual for Wisconsin, we've had snow as late as May 20, but we sure could use a break from the rain for a bit.  None of the farmers around here have much if any of their planting done, it's just too blasted wet.  I really feel badly for the farmers. They cannot harvest their crops if they cannot plant them.

The MG's are from southern Wisconsin and surrounding areas.   I'm not sure if their weather has been exactly the same or not, but hopefully they'll understand why things are so far behind around here.  It's pretty obvious we're not going to have the Formal Garden renovations done; there's over three inches of water standing right where Carl needs to work.  I have about half of the perennials dug out, but every time I try to dig out a big clump of what-nots, the shovel makes horrible sucking noises fit for a horror movie.  When the plant finally does come out of the ground, dividing the daylily clumps is a challenge and a chore; they're just encased in slippery mud. 
There's supposed to be a new stone wall here.  For 'some' reason, Carl doesn't want to work on it.
No fun.

And not much progress.

So, we moved on to just trying to make the rest of the gardens look better.  I know, my timing on reworking the Formal Garden probably couldn't have been any worse, but sheesh, you have to do it sometime, so better now than later.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)  We still have to get 122 good-sized rocks out of this garden and into new homes along with another sixty feet of perennials.  If we would have had a normal spring, I think we could have beat the tour deadline, but this ain't normal by a long shot.

This morning it started to rain around 11AM.  I was out planting some new lily bulbs when the first rain drops were spattered across my glasses by the 20 mph winds.  I was down on my knees and just sighed.  That's when I spotted the flowers that are blooming despite these dismal conditions and ran and got the camera.

These are some more of the primulas I almost tossed out from the Formal Garden renovations.  They are so tiny, but the colors are really intense.  I started them from seed probably five or six years ago, maybe longer, and they failed to germinate in the greenhouse.  Lacking patience with the whole idea, I simply dumped the barren flat upside down over the flower bed, knocking the potting soil out to fall into the bed, and forgot all about the experiment.   Then several years later, primroses began to appear.  Go figure.

Here's some I transplanted a year ago, I didn't realize they grew so large.  (I guess that's what plants do when you give them conditions they actually like.)

The hail managed to mangle the leaves, but the flowers did their best to hang on.  I think the guy on the bottom of the bunch had the right idea....when hail threatens, hide under a leaf!

We don't have any leaves big enough to hide us from hail and rain, unfortunately, but we're doing our best to get something done this spring.  And I realize how very lucky we are to have (so far) only minimal damage from all the storms this season; so many other parts of the country have been devastated. 

P.S. I never did get to look at that silly magazine and find out what the name of it was--but what a beautiful garden on the cover. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Crazies Part 4

Here at Procrastinatoe Gardens, work is progressing ever so slowly and everything is topsy turvy.  We have the Formal Garden destroyed.  It looks awful.  I'm halfway done digging out the perennials and it's slow going.  Carl is putting a new wall in of flat limestone that we had ripped out two years ago when we put in the Pachyberm Bed.  (We're weird, we like to rotate our rocks.)

Since May 1, we've gone from this look below:
To this look:
New Wall in the Formal Garden, coming along---about 10' of wall done and 120' to go..............where the dirt in front of the wall is used to be the perennial bed.  It will be seeded down with grass as soon as we're done with the wall.

Just like every other Spring, My GADS tendencies are in high gear;  I'll be on my way to water the flowers in the greenhouse only to discover the watering can is missing.  Wracking my feeble memory for when I would have last used one of my four (yes, four) watering cans, I recall I had gone to transplant a few daylilies in the farthest reaches of the yard, so I set off on the quest to see if the can is there.

Halfway to the Back Forty, I see a patch of pretty daffodils and remember I was going to take some pictures of them as they won't last too long in the warmer weather we have been finally having.  Back in the house to get Joel's camera (which I will have to buy from him soon, since I use it more than he does, poor guy) and outside to see what's new in Daffodil Land. 

It's a good thing I took these pictures the other day,  because Sunday afternoon we had a tremendous thunderstorm complete with 1" hail.  Daffodils, tulips and other flowering things don't much like hail, so things aren't so pretty right about now.  My hostas weren't thrilled with the flying ice pellets either, but we were so lucky compared to other parts of the country which were devastated by tornadoes.  Such a Spring it has been!
King Alfred? King Kong? 
I was going to attempt to name these daffodils, but I have to admit to something else going wrong with me:

1. My memory just ain't what it used to be and
2. I could do an internet search for the names of all the daffodils but
3. I'm lazy.

Late last fall I bought a whole bunch of daffodil bulbs in bags from Big Box Stores around here when they were clearancing them out.  I had to chisel the frozen dirt to put them in but it was worth it.  They were heavily discounted at most places I looked in early December. There are exceptions to every rule though; one store only discounted their remaining stock 20% off which is too bad.  I happened upon heaping bags of bulbs in that store in  January, forlornly sitting with the last of the Christmas merchandise.  I was tempted to buy them then, but didn't know how I'd blast through snowbanks to get to frozen dirt.  I wonder what the shelf life is of a daffodil? (I know, the internet probably has the answer, it's lazy me again.)  I'll get back to you on that.
This is a tiny daffodil but is just packed with petals.  Luckily it doesn't droop from the weight.

I really like the tiny daffodils with the multi-branching habit.  They are so delicate-looking but tough as nails.

And hereafter are a bunch more:

Daffodils looming over some tiny species tulips. 

These big frilly double daffodils are very pretty too, but can't hold their heads up off the ground, especially when it rains.
These three were peeking out from under our fence last Thursday which made me smile.

We have one lone hyacinth bulb in the gardens and Carl stepped on it when we were placing some of the big rocks along the Lane Bed from the Formal Garden remodeling job.  I was so sad (and so was he) to see the poor thing flat on the ground, but the next morning, it popped right back up again.  I must remember to plant more hyacinths this fall, love their color and fragrance.

And they are apparently Carl-proof, too!
Since I am transplanting all the perennials in the Formal Garden to new homes around the yard I have come to appreciate the flowers that were in that overgrown mess much more.  These are some primulas which were buried in a bunch of quack grass this Spring.  They seem to like their new home in the Woodland Bed.
I almost chucked all the stuff that was in that bed earlier this year, now I'm glad I didn't.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in downsizing. I still think closing up a bed is more work than creating a new one because it's hard to find places for everything once you dig them up and divide them.  Lucky for my plants and for me, there are some people interested in taking divisions off my hands.  Now if I only had the time to get them all dug and delivered.

I was walking by the Quarry Hill garden the other day and was amazed to see tulips growing out there.  I didn't plant them; they must have come in with the fill we used for building the hill which came from our compost piles from over the years.  Not bad placement for volunteer tulips, though.

Once again, I don't know the names, but these tulips have been with us since we started gardening.   They are amazingly hardy.
We had some much warmer weather this weekend and the tulips and daffodils are on their way out.  We have a few left to bloom yet, but I'm not sure how many are going to after the hailstorm.  But at least we were able to enjoy many of them for quite awhile.  This is the latest I can remember having spring bulbs blooming in quite some time, but it was less than a month ago that we had snow on the ground.
I have so much more to tell you about all the goofiness going on around here, but it's already 2AM and this ol' unit needs some sleep. 
 Never a good sign when the sky gets that dark in midafternoon.

Off to don the sleep apnea mask of Darth Karen and say a prayer of thanks that we still have a roof over our heads after the wild weather. 
See you next year, daffodils...maybe by then I'll know your names.  

Probably not.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ah, Hollywood: The Video!

 The video of our garden was on our local public television station on Thursday night.  Boy, was I nervous waiting for our bit to come up.  We were at the tail end of the show, the last six minutes or so. 

  I did peek through my fingers as I watched it, but it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be.  The professionals did a great job editing the footage. (There's still way too much of me in it, though.) 

So, with no further blathering on from me, here it is:

My mom wanted to know why Carl didn't get to talk. 

She has a point.......yeah, how come I hogged up the whole thing?

Well, the first problem was the film crew only had one spare microphone and the second problem was Carl didn't want to talk on camera.  Like I said before, I didn't want to talk either, but one of us had to.  I'm glad they added the part with Carl and the dome and the wrecker in action, though.  He deserves all the credit for the gardens; they would not exist on this scale without him and our sons. 

I hope you enjoy the video about a bunch of Crazy Rock People.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ah, Hollywood, Part 2

 We interrupt my Spring Crazies Progress Report for another breaking News Bulletin:

Quarry Garden will be on TV.  (And Carl and Karen, too.)

Tomorrow, May 12

And repeating a bunch of times over the rest of the month.

And I will be doing all the talking, well, except for the host. 

Oh, dear..........

Some of you may remember way back in the heat and humidity and mosquitoes of August 2010, Carl and I were interviewed by Shelley Ryan, the host of a public television show, The Wisconsin Gardener.  If you're interested, you can find the link to the post describing the filming here:

After the film crew left, we breathed a sigh of relief.   That was a stressful morning for me.  Believe it or not, I'm much happier behind a keyboard than in front of a camera. 

Even when we give garden tours around here, I tend to get flustered; someone will ask me the name of let's say, a hosta, (and I don't mean the cultivar) no--they want to know what the big 'elephanty-eared thing' is and I have to rack my brains to find the word....'Uh, it's a,, oh, gees, it's on the tip of my tongue...." 

The person asking has long since lost interest and twenty minutes later I blurt out, 'Duh----It's a Hosta!!" which really startles people around me.  I do tend to get many curious looks.

And they put me on TV? 

I guess I should back up the truck here a bit: Carl didn't want to go on camera.  Neither did I.  But one of us had to do the talking.   I haven't seen the footage yet.  I can only imagine what I will look and sound like.  I have this tendency to laugh like a hyena when I'm nervous and it's SO annoying.   I tried very hard not to come off like a goofball for the interview.  The film crew did multiple retakes trying to get me to explain just Why In the World did we want to build a quarry in our back yard and every time I said something wrong.  So I'm hoping they edited out all the bad bits (all the parts with me in them, lol) and just filmed the rocks and the flowers.   

This isn't the first time our garden has gotten us on TV, either.  A few years ago we were part of Green Bay's  annual garden walk and the local TV news came out and filmed two short segments.  (I laughed like a hyena, then, too.  Squirm, squirm.)  I should see if I could post the video, you'd all enjoy watching some silly footage, wouldn't you?   Even I can laugh instead of cry when I view it now, enough time has passed.  Time heals all things, you know. 

And a lot of time passed since we were interviewed last August, too; so we thought maybe they decided against using our segment.  But then, Shelley contacted me several weeks ago to tell me our garden will air on our local Channel 38.1 at 7:00 PM on May 12.  This Thursday.  Oh boy. 

Wisconsin Gardener entitled this episode: Plants for Clay & A Garden That Rocks.  (The Rocks part would be us.) 

Here's a link:  The Wisconsin Gardener 

I thought maybe I could get a sneak preview of how the segment turned out, but no such luck.  All the link shows is a patch of dried up clay (no, that wasn't filmed in our yard, we're all sand) but maybe after it airs on TV, I'll be able to link to actual video for all of our viewing pleasure.

So, think of me (kindly, please) when this airs tomorrow night, I'll be curled up in a ball peeking through my fingers like a kid watching a scary movie.  But it will all be over in five minutes, just like a bad thunderstorm.

Ah, Hollywood, Indeed.

P. S.  The camera adds at least 63 pounds.  I'm really a Size 4.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Crazies, Part 3

Ongoing reporting from our Destruction Project.

But first, a Walk Down Memory Lane:

This picture was taken in May of 1995 and shows our youngest son, David, almost 5 years old, sitting on one of the big rocks in the Formal Garden.  Dave was not happy the day I took this picture from across the garden.  Something had made him very sad (probably the fact that we were doing then what we're doing now, non-stop gardening)  and he was perched on top the rock holding a peony flower and crying a little.   I was hiding in a cedar tree with a telephoto lens which is what made the picture kinda blurry.  
So, when it came time to move this very same rock the other day, we decided we would try to get the now almost 21 year old Dave back out to the garden for an updated photo in the same position.
As you can see, David is still not very happy (because sixteen years later, we are STILL doing non-stop gardening) but at least he humored his Maternal Unit long enough to pose for this picture.  Thank you, David, you may go now.
 Speedy, isn't he?
Ok, Joel, you may move the rock now.

From Friday afternoon through Sunday (yes, even on Mother's Day) we moved rocks almost non-stop during the daylight hours.  Joel was able to give us a hand on Friday afternoon for a few hours which is what makes the rocks move a whole lot faster.  They respect Joel.

Carl has to pry the rocks out of the ground where they have become embedded over the last 20+ years and get the chains around them.
By this time, we are now on the other side of the staircase which is becoming more of a problem since we can't back down in the garden and each successive rock is getting farther and farther away.  Luckily the wrecker has a long cable.  We had to pull the rocks sideways in order to get them out without ruining the shrubs. 
Rock loaded, let's go.

As long as we don't drive off the edge of the quarry, we'll be ok.
This is the main hosta bed in our Woodland Bed.  If ever a garden could use big rocks, this one surely could.  We had a few big ones in there already, but they need company.  This bed is much prettier when the gardener cleans it up for the year in the fall.  The gardener (me) didn't get around to it last fall as I was tossing rocks in another place of the garden.  (The Something Else Bed).  It actually worked out well that I hadn't done my fall clean-up, though, because now when we're placing these big rocks we can see exactly how much space each hosta takes up by looking at the dead leaves flopped on the ground.
Up and Over the Wall

We tried to lower the stones over the tufa wall without disturbing them, but luckily, tufa is light and relatively easy to restack because we knocked a lot of them down.  We could have just yanked the big rocks out of the Formal Garden and put them on a pile, but since half the work of moving the rocks is getting them rigged in chains and on the wrecker, we decided to place them in their new homes right away.  So far, we've done a half-baked job of it, every one we've placed needs additional work, but at least they're where we want them to be.  We can come back and tweak them later.  (Or just throw a lot of mulch down and wait for the hostas to come up and cover 'em.)  To make a rock look natural, you're supposed to bury a goodly portion of it in the ground.  Yeah, we'll get to that.  Soon.  I promise.

We interrupt the never-ending pictures of a Messy Garden to show these little pansies/violas? blooming on the Quarry Hill.

Ok, back to work.
 Joel is pulling the cable on the wrecker out to it's full length so we can reach the rocks to hook them up.  This is when it really started to become a drag.  Literally.  We would let the cable out to it's farthest length and then hook chains to the cable until we had enough length to reach the rock.  Then we would crank the wrecker until we ran out of cable and then unhook the chain, unroll the cable out again and rehook to the chain attached to the rock.  Repeat the cranking until the cable was all back on the wrecker again, over and over, up to four times for one rock, dragging the rock through the flower bed inch by inch.

On Saturday, Carl and I were on our own with the rock moving.  (Joel has a Life outside of his idiotic parent's garden, believe it or not!) We took stock of what to do next.  The rocks were now getting bigger and farther away from us.  Since we weren't happy about dragging these huge rocks which in turn, were making huge ruts in the flower bed (plus, I'm not sure what has and hasn't emerged yet plant-wise)  this was when we got out our next tool in rock moving:
A hood off of a 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix.  Of course we have one, doesn't everyone?  And no, the car it came from wasn't in an accident.  This is all our fault.  We obtained the hood from our friend, Richard. 
How do you use a Pontiac Car Hood in the job of rock moving?  Well, it's like this: first you put the hood down on the ground in front of the rock you need to move. 

Then, you pry with crowbars to get your several thousand pound rock to flop over on top of the hood.  Then you return to the wrecker and start cranking.

There I am, taking my turn on Crank Duty.  (Actually, I'm pretty good at Crank Duty, just ask Carl, I'm cranky a lot lately.)
C'mon, little rock, don't be shy, come on over here.  Oh, drat, the other rock is in the way.
There, that's better.  This takes an amazingly long time, every time you turn the crank, the rock moves ever so slightly. The hood makes the rock slide more easily across the ground, and cuts down on the ruts.
Carl sometimes needs to give the rocks a Pep Talk.  They like to slide sideways off the hood and be difficult.
Though it doesn't show here very well, the lawn looked like a horrible accident had occurred before we were done, with red paint smeared all over the grass.
Finally, after almost an hour of cranking, the rock is hooked up and ready to roll.  This was one of the biggest ones we had in the Formal Garden, so I scouted out a place for it near the house so we could see it every day.
The area by our willow tree in the driveway is rather forlorn with just the tufa rock walls and a few scruffy hostas that aren't up yet.  Good place for a big rock.  But first, we have to get it there.
We couldn't lift the rock any higher because we were out of cable and it was a bit too tall, so we left the car hood under the rock.  Amazingly, it stayed under there for most of the trip to the front yard.
It did get a little squirrely coming through between the Quarry and the Escarpment, but it hung on.
Even when Carl had to make the tight turn around the end.  We were grateful it stayed on the car hood, this saved our lawn from some nasty ruts.
The hood is still hanging on as Carl approaches the road........but then.....Ooooops.......
Carl, you lost something!
Never mind, carry on.
What's a little rut in the driveway?  That's why we love gravel...those of you with pretty concrete or blacktopped driveways should look the other way.  I know it's a hard image to look at.. My apologies.

I backed the rock into place and Carl pried and yelled and pried some more.  We work so well together.
There it is, and boy does it need tweaking!  But it's there and that's all that matters.

Just this one rock took us over three hours to deal with.  We only managed to move five rocks total on Saturday.  The sun was going down, but we thought we might as well get one more rock started before giving up for the night.  Did I mention we have a bus trip with a group of Master Gardeners coming to tour on June 4th?  Ha ha ha ha ha...yes, we do.........oh, boy, work FASTER!  And yes, my posts are ridiculously long, but we put in ridiculously long days around here, thirteen hours in the garden on Saturday.

Remember I said we give away Free Upper Body Workouts to anyone who wants one?  When we were going back for the last rock of the evening on Saturday night, Richard and Emily stopped by for a visit:
Look at Emily having Fun.  (Thank you, Emily!)  Her husband, Richard, didn't want to be left out of the the Good Times, either:

It was getting dark, so this picture is blurry, but Richard is having a Wonderful Time, too, right, Richard?  Richard?  We'll be doing this on Sunday too, if you need to have more Fun.  Oh, you're busy?  Ok.  (Thanks to both Richard & Emily for helping us, we really appreciate it!)

On Sunday,  Joel was home for a few hours and was willing to help us again.  (Thank you, Joel!!)

I cooked a nice Mother's Day meal and had Mom over.  She thinks we are Silly to do all this work but she calmed down when I told her it was so we could downsize the gardens.  She's often chided me on the future and how I will keep this place up as I grow older.  "What will you do when you're my age?" she asks me constantly, but that's usually when she's helping me weed.

I have to stifle a guffaw before I say, "Well, if I'm lucky enough to see 90 years old, I'll be doing the same thing you're doing.  Weeding at 90."  

May we all be so lucky.