Sunday, March 9, 2014
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I'm going to type that again. It's such a satisfying word: STUMPERY.
For those of you who have no idea what a STUMPERY is (there, did it again), it's a garden feature of sorts, using large, atmospheric, old stumps and large pieces of driftwood, along with lush green plantings of moss, ferns, and other shade-loving plants.
I was watching the Great British Garden Revival and host Chris Beardshaw was clumping through Prince Charles' ("highly acclaimed") stumpery at Highgrove, waxing enthusiastically about the Victorian love for melodrama, dark corners, and scary woodland settings, all the while gesturing at the massive, overbearing, stumps on either side of the path. It was impressive and vaguely alarming (those wacky Victorians), but mesmerizing at the same time. So I decided to try building a STUMPERY in what I've nicknamed The Shade Garden.
The Shade Garden languishes a bit, truth be told: it's home to neither herb nor vegetable, so it doesn't get much in the way of compost or soil amendments (less rude neglect than simple economics). Up til now it's had a mixture of bee-friendly perennials and shrubs that don't mind the near constant dappled shade. After watching Chris Beardshaw rhapsodize about The Thing That Is A Stumpery, I realized that the Shade Garden is just perfect for a mess of driftwood, moss, woodland plants, and aesthetically-placed rocks (which I happen to have a lot of). A STUMPERY, in other words.
I didn't clear the area too much beforehand, but I'm going to have to clip the soapberry bushes, I suspect. They are threatening to overwhelm. Prince Charles' Head Stumpery Gardener stated rather baldly that it was quite a bit of work keeping their stumpery looking the way it does, which initially had me worried, until I remembered that my grounds aren't open to critical garden visitors all the time.
Mine lacks the giant stumps and creeping, hanging moss, so it's considerably more muted, but there's a certain gravitas about it that we're all very taken with.
I've tucked some hellebores, heuchera, leucojums, old-fashioned primroses, and a few odd ferns amongst the pieces.
This hellebore is "Monte Cristo."
My stumpery will have quite an overhang of hawthorne and some giant green shrubby thing, all spring and summer, so I've pushed some bits of moss into the driftwood, in the hopes that the rainy spring will help them spread around a bit. Atmosphere, you know.
It's a good place for beach stones too, because they are less likely to get swallowed up in the green.
Irises are blooming all over the place. My trick with these miniature bulbs is to keep them in troughs and pots - they are far more portable this way. If you're anything like me in your gardening style, and you are frequently moving things around from year to year and from whim to whim, this is far less traumatic on the poor bulbs. These little spring irises are one of my very favourite flowers. Such perfect crisp colours.
Along with STUMPERY one of my other favourite words is FECUND, which perfectly describes this Calamondin orange. A fecund creature if ever there were one. The only drawback to its otherwise delightful presence is the fact that the scent isn't particularly strong. Not like the lemon trees, which waft up your nose and make you feel as though the world is perfect, beautiful, and delicious, all in the same instant.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
It's been cold here all week. Unusually cold. And by cold, I mean very, VERY cold. Cold as in -5 when I get up in the morning. Cold as in bringing the chickens' water into the basement overnight so it's liquid when we go out to free them in the morning (that's how they see it, let's face it). Cold as in putting the fleece liner in my raincoat.Cold as in some of us spending most of our day sleeping under a blanket. Witness this lazy fellow. It's been a while since he's written a guest post, but don't be expecting one any time soon; he barely manages to rouse himself to eat, let alone put his little paddy paws to the keyboard.
One thing he DOES manage to soldier on with, depressingly, is finding soft, diggable toilet spots in the garden. No squatting in the bushes for this feline. Most of the time he doesn't even bother to cover it up, either. I suppose he thinks that's he's doing me a favour, leaving it out in the open for easier finding. I've tried to discuss it with him, but he isn't partial to my conversational methods, which generally involve a version of the old Who Flung Poo? joke.
So while he's
I ran out of greenhouse shelving so I had to resort to plastic for this area. I also left the SuperMegaGigantic Marigold Shrub carcass right there, because if there's one thing that Toffee does not like, it's having to bushwack his way through the garden to his toilet space.
It's not terribly atmospheric, I admit, but the soil in this bed has finally turned into the most gorgeous crumbly stuff possible, and there's no way Toffee's little bum is going to - ahem - soil my soil.
Look at him! Does he look like he appreciates the lengths I go to keep him out of my garden? Of course he doesn't. He's got better things to do, evidently.
Friday, January 31, 2014
And, as you might have noticed from the publicity still, the actor who plays Coriolanus is none other than Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki in Thor 1 & 2. We all like Loki here. So while Significant Other was looking forward to seeing a Serious Production in a Serious Theatre with Serious Actors, the kids and I were looking forward to seeing Loki Do Shakespeare. Not that we said as much, but there you are. We all have our motivations.
We were there an hour before the presentation was to start, to scout out the line-up because it was showing in a smaller theatre. I had insisted on this, given the cost of the tickets and the fact that we had a party of five. Significant Other thought this an indecently early arrival; he likes to swan into films long after the trailers have already shown, but as a veteran of many a movie premiere I knew we'd be hard pressed to get five seats in a row. Plus, I am one of those people who likes to sit in a certain place in the theatre. No lower front or upper right (or left) for me. I like it front and slightly upper centre. I am picky. So there we were, in the line-up. At that point there were only two people ahead of us, which encouraged Significant Other to roll his eyes a little at me. "Just wait," I told him, "just you wait."
The kids were wandering around, Max wondering which movie he could sneak into without anyone noticing, Dominic wishing he had an iPod because standing there doing NOTHING might actually cause him to DIE RIGHT THEN AND THERE, and FDPG was busy, as she always is, trying to find free wifi with her new iPod. This last activity may or may not have had everything to do with Dominic's imminent expiration: he, as we all are told frequently, does not have an iPod to pass the hours with
There was a vase of fake flowers and battery-operated candle on a table in front of the theatre entrance, along with a programme of sorts, so, in an effort to ignore Mr We Came Here Too Soon and Mr I Don't Have An iPod, I grabbed one and concentrated on it. The girl in front of me tapped my shoulder. "Where did you get that?" she asked. I pointed at the table. She grabbed one and scanned it swiftly. "I've had my ticket since December," she told me, rather breathlessly. We stared at each other for a few seconds. She looked slightly unhinged. I noticed that she was wearing a LEGO Loki necklace, a t-shirt with a picture of Tom Hiddleston's face on it, and a hoodie with Loki horns in the hood. It might have been at that point that Significant Other sidled away from the line-up slightly. Desperate Passions of the Celebrity Sort always make him uneasy, but I found her endearing. I asked her if she'd seen the Super Bowl Jaguar commercial with
Eventually we were allowed to file in, which we did politely, being Good Canadians. The place was packed. "Wow," said Max, "did everyone here pay as much as we did?" The glee in his voice was almost as embarrassing as the way in which his voice carried over the entire theatre.
Significant Other whispered that there was supposed to be a shower scene. "Oooh! Loki Girl will be thrilled," I whispered back. We both glanced down at her. She was sitting four rows below us, staring hungrily at the screen in between replaying the Jaguar commercial on her iPhone. "It's not gratuitous, according to the Guardian, it's apparently done quite well," S.O. whispered back, giving me what he hoped was a Quelling Look, no doubt worried that I was getting a case of Loki Fever myself.
It certainly was not gratuitous. Here's a shot I pulled off the internet. It was both alarming AND unnervingly thrilling. In fact, the whole production was alarming and unnervingly thrilling. I couldn't help but be impressed by
And that goes for the entire cast, although it took me a bit before I got used to Mark Gatiss as Menenius. His first speech was riddled with awkward rhythms, but once that was over he gave one of the strongest performances. As did Deborah Findlay as Volumnia.
Now all we have to do is hope they put it on DVD, which, given the legions of Loki fans out there, just might happen.
UPDATED: Someone just mentioned to me that their blog feed shows photos but no words. I went to Feedly, my blog reader, and it too has no words. Not sure what's going on there, but let me know what you see. I'm viewing the faulty version on Safari, which is always a PITA.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Ahem. Moving on...
Cast your eyes up to the photo. I took this photo a few weeks ago at a store I happened to be in with Eldest Son, who had just had a birthday. For his gift I had promised him access to my credit cards for a limited time frame, and he was taking advantage of this in a local mall. As is usual with these sorts of expeditions, he was in the change room while I hunted for things for him to try on. Why he can't find the stuff himself perplexes me greatly, but he refuses to admit that he actually DOES this, even when I point it out rather, err, pointedly, so we remain at a vaguely pleasant, if somewhat odd, familial impasse.
Then I happened upon this table. It was covered with items of every day clothing that resembled pajamas, and when I looked closely I discovered that they were in fact pajamas, but pajamas that were meant to be worn not in the privacy of one's bedroom, but outside. On the bus. At school. In the coffee bar. They were outside pajamas. My Jane Austen soul quailed a bit but I soldiered on, until, that is, I glanced up and saw that red sweatshirt. In case you can't read it, I'll tell you what it says: BOOBIES MAKE ME SMILE. Yes, that IS what that says. And yes, that item of clothing IS meant for an adult. A grown up person. If the mannequin is anything to go by, this is a man's sweatshirt. I must have stood there gaping for a few minutes, because a clerk sidled up to me and asked if I wanted one of them for my son to try on. "He'd rather die than wear that," I said incredulously, "what grown up uses the word BOOBIES?" The clerk looked uneasy. "Umm, someone must, I guess," he said. We regarded each other for a second or two, me thinking about the vagaries of bad advertising and getting sucked into said bad advertising, and him no doubt wondering how to avoid me while I remained in the store, asking awkward questions.
So I did what I thought most appropriate in the situation. I took a photo of the offending item with my iPad mini and showed it to Eldest Son when he emerged from his cubicle. He too was suitably repulsed, but had the good sense to tell me to google it for further information. "These people are nice," he remarked, "but they're pretty clueless. Look at the t-shirt that guy showed me." He showed me a t-shirt that had SEX AND GUNS AND ROCKNROLL MAKE ME HORNY on it. Granted, it was a charming shade of green, but I didn't feel either of us could do justice to the slogan. I returned it to the rack, while Eldest Son made his purchases.
Then I went home and googled the slogan. To my shock (and dismay), it was not simply a puerile, infantile, stupid, juvenile, cringeworthy OR creepy slogan with little thought and intent behind it. Nope, it referred to a Facebook page in support of cancer. The site was selling rubber bracelets with slogans like F*CK CANCER on them, too. People said things like "these are insanely funny." I'm not going to link to the site. You can do that on your own. I AM going to say that I think this is, while likely done with good intentions, a Really Bad Idea. It's never good to use anger to fuel a movement of this sort. Anger has its place, but it's not here. At least, I don't think it is.
Besides, who in their right mind would wear a sweatshirt that has the word BOOBIES on it? Wait, do I really want to know?
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Ahhh, such is youth.
Now I'm going to break out into a little number called Silver and Gold...
Luckily there was a highly distracting sunrise to take our minds off the idea of Loud Teenager Music invading our private waking moments.
It changed by the minute, causing FDPG to enthuse about the amazing camera her BRAND NEW iPod has. And how many filters it has. And how Dominic should buy one JUST LIKE IT.
Which caused Dominic to gnash his teeth and wish he'd spent less money on candy and LEGO at Christmas because he might actually have enough to silence that irritating sister of his. Instead he told her sharply that he was going to buy a laptop instead. So there.
And while all this was swirling around me, front doors slamming, cat skittering around the corner in panic, Viva La Vida blasting in my head, FDPG gazing adoringly at her new piece of electronica, Dominic dribbling cereal milk as he too gazed adoringly at FDPG's new iPod, I continued to look out the window and watch the sky change.
The big sky. Ruling the world.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
It's been seriously, wildly, balmy this week. Light jacket weather. Flimsy shoe weather. Perfect gardening weather. Hard to believe it's January. Usually it's blustery, cold, windy, frosty, icy, thunderous, rainy, misty, or very very gray and wet. Take your pick. But now - it's like being in the eye of a giant storm: clear, calm, sunny. So of course I had to take advantage of it and get out into the garden. Like any good PNWer.
Of course! There's always something to do in the garden. Or greenhouse. (Sheila coughs politely and ignores the mess that is the interior of her house)
So without further ado, I present to you:
January in the Pacific North West
(I sound entirely too optimistic, don't I?)
Almost time to take the Squirrel Baffles off the pots of bulbs, although watch, I'll remove them and the little squirrel buggers will go mad, digging and flinging and chewing and shredding.
Ugh. Squirrels have taken top spot in my Compendium Of Irritating Things In The Yard, dislodging Bishops Weed for the first time in 4 years. As a result we are now the possessors of a Squirrel Trap. I am planning on catching them and releasing them on a nearby mountain. Someone I know drowns them. We tried that with a rat; it seemed to take bloody forever before we knew for certain it was dead and we both felt ill after the experience. I don't think I could drown a squirrel. Those lovely, wavy, furry tails. Oops. Must. Remain. Detached. Remember destruction of garden. Digging of beds. Shredding of shade fabric. Chewing of pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, peaches, and lemons. Argh.
Someone at a garden centre talked me into this when I said I didn't want to spend $80 on a witch hazel. Initially I put it in the bed by the front door, where the winter box is (another fabulous plant for winter scent), so we could smell it as we come and go, but it crowded the fuchsias so it's on the move again. Right now it's in a pot in the back yard, ready to migrate to the deck, where it will likely appreciate the longer period of sunlight the deck receives.
You can see the chunk that one of those moments of inattention took out of the pot in the front, housing a hugely forgiving sedum "Autumn Joy." Directly behind that is one of the most beautiful blues you've ever seen in a flower, the sometimes tender but always impressive agapanthus.
Time, sadly, has proved him correct. It's required a lot of attention on my part, usually after a wind.
Here it is after my latest ministrations. Interestingly, it looks better than it's looked for a few years. I used the long, relatively straight, water shoots I pruned off the Granny Smith as my new arches. I bundled them together, snipped the ends even, used electrical tape to secure them in the middle, then wired each piece to the old, broken struts and eventually wired the entire thing back together.
Plus, I ran out of wire, so tape had to suffice.
Tip: when commencing Garden Chores make sure you have sufficient supplies. Of everything.
Or you might end up using electrical tape.
And regretting it later.
Guttering is incredibly handy for growing small batches of greens. You don't need much soil, the interface between the heat mat and the plastic container is minimal, and it's super easy to transplant: simply slide the length of soil off the tray into the prepared bed (tip: prepare the bed FIRST). The only trick is keeping the soil moist. Let it dry out and your seedlings will be, as they say, toast.
I'm hoping to have a regular variety of lettuces this year, which sounds nice in theory but requires a certain amount of mathematical plotting and planting so one has a constant supply of seedlings to pop into those empty spots.
This is my favourite garden tool. It's a Japanese pick thingie I bought at Lee Valley, for what, at the time, I thought was an ungawdly amount of money: in hindsight it's been worth every penny.
As long as Richard sharpens it regularly.
Otherwise it's guaranteed to make you swear a fair bit as you hack futilely at the roots of some stupid spurge or the holly bush that keeps reproducing itself all over the garden.