puzzle working a garden

puzzle working a garden

My brain likes puzzles, and the longer I live in my own flip flops, the more I appreciate this as a bona fide creative strategy. Puzzle working is in my bones. My parents claimed I could work a wooden US puzzle when I was just three–and lickety split.

Me at three. Champion US Puzzle worker.

Me at three. Champion US Puzzle worker.

Now it’s my approach to everything, and especially fun in the gardening. Often it can be serendipitous, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a puzzle to be worked. Danger Garden recently gave me a sweet little Olive Tree. Does that mean I can call my style Plant-Driven? That sounds a little better than ADD, which is what I usually own up to.

An Olive Tree, just the ticket to kick off a Mediterranean Garden.

An Olive Tree, just the ticket to kick off a Mediterranean Garden.

I moved it around in the pot trying to decided where to put it, and finally settled on an area I hadn’t given much thought. It’s a strip of yard beside the driveway, opposite the Sea of Juniper. This area has its own smaller Body of Juniper, but there was plenty of room to plant the tree, and it’s a perfect location. (That Juniper should be quivering in its roots.) And now, I have a start for a Mediterranean Garden. I’m so excited to have a new area to contemplate.

Tell me I have kindred spirits out there, please.

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The Front Yard Food Revolution comes to my neighborhood

The Front Yard Food Revolution comes to my neighborhood

It’s been quite exciting, watching new planter boxes go up all around me. For a couple of weeks it seemed every day’s dog-walk yielded a new development. Then came the plants, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, strawberries, lettuces, kale…no wonder I’d come home hungry. Now that we’re almost in June (!) things are starting to settle down and I’m having fun watching things grow…

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surprise: bigger and bolder yet again

surprise: bigger and bolder yet again

I hope everyone is having fun in garden this week. There’s so much happening. I’m surprised, yet again, that it’s all coming back, bigger and bolder. The Eryngium agavifolium above is going nuts, doing it’s best to embarrass its buddy, the Nolina. If this keeps up, soon I won’t be able to see dirt. And according to Megan, that means you’re done. Wouldn’t that be a terrible turn of events?

Fortunately, moving to this new garden has thoroughly emboldened me. I dig and move and divide with abandon, pesky arm permitting. All of this was really born of necessity with the big transplant from our Alameda garden. In fairness, my Garden Blogging Pals did the heavy lifting. I am, however, extremely talented in watching other people work. It was an unexpected boon, and another reason to be grateful for my fellow fanatical gardeners.

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My gardening style

My gardening style

No not “garden style” as in modern, cottage, prairie, or any of those buzzwords. “Gardening style” as in how you go about it, or as Patricia wrote last week, “gardening by brain style.” Her words got me thinking about my own style. Patricia herself has often accused me of being organized, always having a plan. I think an hour or two of watching me work in the garden would quickly dispel that notion. Read More…

Getting rid of weedy bulbs: making an unpleasant task slightly better

Getting rid of weedy bulbs: making an unpleasant task slightly better

Not all garden chores are created equal, but many are enjoyable on some level, even if they’re grunt work. For instance, I don’t really mind digging out blackberries. Carefully using the pruners to grab the stems, disentangling them from nearby plants, chopping them into pieces that fit into yard debris bag. It’s mindless and meditative and satisfying to see your progress. And then there are the chores that just suck. For instance, the weedy bulbs, like the Hyacinthoides in the photo above by James Petts. I have Hyacinthoides, but they’re not as big a problem as my Star of Bethlehem, wild onion, and wild garlic. Mix those all together and you’ve got yourself a garden monster.

It is soooooo hard to take the advice of waiting and watching for a year after moving into a new garden. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably still make some of the same mistakes I made 15 years ago. If you move into a garden that doesn’t reflect your gardening style, you know there are certain plants you’ll never learn to love, although some might surprise you if you give them time. But the restraint it would take not to plant what you know you can’t live without, I honestly don’t know if I have it in me.

If I could point to my single largest mistake that I vow to never make again, it was failing to recognize the problem of invasives lurking in my soil. I was so new to gardening, I didn’t even know what I was looking at when my shovel would strike these tight clumps of bulbs. I remember wondering if they were frog eggs.

At some point I realized they were plants, and I thought, well, dividing them will surely be good for them, they’re probably pretty. I ordered loads and loads of compost to make my cement-like compacted soil more hospitable, and went about diligently hand digging the other weeds, breaking up the soil and turning in the compost with my digging fork. If you have dealt with any of these problem bulbs, you are probably cringing right now. That was my single biggest garden mistake of my life.
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gardening by brain style

gardening by brain style

I think it might be a thing.

The other day, I found myself looking around in horror at garden, seeing nothing but the work that needs to be done. And then it seemed so ridiculous, because this is self-imposed. Oh sure, the garden needs to be maintained to the point of not becoming a neighborhood eyesore. But stressing out over it, no no no. I garden because I love it. Thusly, I pulled myself up by the collar, reminding myself that I do not need to get crazy over tasks I want to do, especially in the garden.

Plus there are some glorious happenings out there that having nothing to do with task mastering.

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One Perfect Pot

One Perfect Pot

“Focal Point” and “Negative Space”…read anything on the topic of design and you’re likely to see those words. As I’ve visited, and photographed, other people’s gardens I’ve noticed how an empty container, placed just so, seems to act as both; a focal point and negative space. At least to my way of seeing, and of course it’s only negative space when it’s left empty, something I don’t seem capable of doing (see a pot = put a plant in it). Read More…

The Jagged Edge: Serrated Foliage Round Up

The Jagged Edge: Serrated Foliage Round Up

We get a lot of people searching plant lust for serrated leaves, and I often wonder, are people seeing some jaw-dropping Melianthus out in the world, and searching for the name? I can see it, because that plant is always love at first sight.

Or are people searching for any of the dramatic saw-toothed foliage possibilities they can get their hands on? I hope that’s it at least some of the time, because it means I have kindred spirits out there. You can never have too many serrated leaves, in my opinion. Here are several that have been occupying my wish list.

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