Fortunately a lot of today's busyness also involved a rather good thrift store out of town, what with Max and his Very Busy Life (and my role as his chauffeur) and the twins and their insistence that they have some fun too: I had at least 10 minutes of used garden book perusaling (if that isn't a verb then I'm making it one) in between checking for second hand Lego with Dominic and then listening to that very same Dominic (aka Mr Impatient) ask me over and over again why I look at the garden section every single time we go in there. He knows why he goes in; obviously he thinks I have more cryptic reasons. Even with him next to me, sighing heavily, I managed to pick up two
Anyhow, we took our purchases to the front to pay for them and the lady glowered at the 49¢ sticker on one of the garden magazines, glowered at me, glowered at her crony (who looked at me as if I was a hardened criminal) and said, very pointedly, "That's not OUR tag." She then punched 49¢ into the cash register twice with what I thought was rather unnecessary vigour. Obviously she thought I was pulling a Fast One. Yes, my name is Sheila and I buy really old gardening magazines from thrift stores for a fraction of what they are really worth. Shameful, aren't I? One of those magazines was older than my teenager, too.
I am not advocating you get yourself off to thrift stores to search out old gardening magazines, mind you, but some of the articles occasionally show no signs of old age, like the article on apples in the one I got today. Some things don't change much.
Interesting Or Very Necessary Projects
I hope you can see the obvious reason for that nickname.
Anyhow, I bought some 1"X 2" cedar strips and some shims to outline the path, then found myself unexpectedly digging a ditch for all the water coming down from the top of the yard, where it meets the yard. Where there is no road-side storm ditch or drain to cope with all that water (sheila says pointedly). If it looks rather crooked it's because of the Hopefully Soon To Be No More chestnut tree and its unruly root system thwarting me. Laying a path like this is not hard, but you should follow a couple of rules that are only in place to ensure that you don't end up redoing it the following year (like I sometimes do).
First, level your project space as much as possible. Use a metal rake or one of those claw-like things. If you are going to put a drainage pipe underneath your path this is the time to do it. What I'll do here is this: measure the diameter of my drain pipe, then dig out enough space to lay a 2" layer of gravel, the pipe, then another 2" layer of gravel. In other places around the garden I've wrapped it all in a layer of landscape fabric, but here I don't think I need to, mostly because the ground will never have grass on it (grass roots get into things). Landscape fabric isn't a fail safe measure, mind you, but it is good for keeping the rocks and pipe in one place, particularly if you are going to have grass growing merrily above the area. Once I've got my pipe properly settled in, I'll shift the soil so it's all level. Then, and this is why I have those cedar strips along the side, I'm going to put down some sand or loamy soil. Tamp that down, then get some large concrete pavers and lay them on top, like a sandwich. I hope it will all be in an attractive and horribly aesthetic fashion, too. I might even have a Reveal (if all goes well).
Plants That Do Interesting Things This Time of Year
Witch Hazel is another great garden addition. I was in the garden centre the other day and noticed an especially gorgeous red witch hazel nestled among some dark green leafy viburnums. It looked so tempting I had to leave the store before I bought one (It's worrying but I've noticed that I'm a bit too conducive to suggestion). They come in gold, white, and yellow and some are more scented than others. I don't have any in my garden, sadly. Every so often I think "It's only a matter of time" but then my Second Thoughts sneak in with a "Who are you kidding? You don't have any room for another bloody tree!"
The usual plant in the magazines this time of year is Hellebore. Martha has an article on them in her magazine this month (which, fortunately, someone gave me as a gift subscription so I am not reduced to stealing IT from thrift stores as well). What I like about our hellebore, other than the fact that a good friend of mine gave it to me, is how their blooming period always coincides with Christmas, so I can read The Christmas Rose to the kids and then point it out to them in the back yard afterwards, in one of those cool coincidences of magic us parents love so much.
And even more finally, don't ignore the importance of a good sunrise as a backdrop to your garden. Suddenly all those leaning compost bins, bug-infested trees, and rickety chicken wire fencing structures look poetic, instead of merely prosaic.
Tune in next week, when we explore the importance of a good watering system.