Sunday, July 31, 2011

CUTTING GARDEN re-do

When I initially began investigating the concept of a Cutting Garden most of what I read said that a cutting garden should be hidden away somewhere where it can't be easily seen.  I already had my old lavender field at my disposal and it certainly wasn't out of sight.  Also, I will be opening my cutting garden to the public and feel that it should be an inviting and memorable place to visit.  So... my approach is a different one. It will be one of the focal points of our property.  It is currently undergoing a re-do as I have decided to take a new approach and will be using mostly old fashioned annuals (that I will seed and grow myself) in addition to the already existing perennials.  I will also have peonies as well as cutting roses.  The edges will be bordered with flowering bushes of various varieties; lilacs, wigelia, dappled willow, old garden roses with hollyhocks tucked in here and there. There will be lavender at the front of the garden.  I will add birdhouses, feeders and baths as well as a fountain or bubbler.  As I type this it sounds like an impossibly big plan. Hopefully, if all of the stars line up correctly my impossibly big plan will take place next spring.  The first step of this transformation took place this past weekend with the installation of a beautiful iron gazebo that my ever creative husband had constructed for me.  It sits in the center of the cutting garden. It isn't huge but at 6x11 ft. it sits perfectly in the center of the beds.  It will be painted black with a weather resistant paint and will one day act as host to several large vintage rambling roses.  Lots of hard work awaits me out there, but I feel it will be well worth it.  I will keep you posted next spring as to it's progress. 

ALMOST ALL GROWN UP!

My chickens have grown like weeds, as chickens do.  I am truly enjoying listening to them go about their "chicken business", clucking, pecking and scratching.  When I hear a commotion I feel compelled to run over to the coop and insist that they stop terrorizing each other.  However, I refrain and remind myself that they are in fact, chickens.  I have slowly begun to name them as they have matured and shown their personalities and individual markings.  The Roosters are named Dickens (polish), Winston (Wellsummer), and Hemmingway (Penadasenca).  Hemmingway is rather aloof and seems to be afraid of me, but he isn't aggressive.  They each have a unique crow and I love listening to them.  The Polish hens are named, Violet, Ruby, Pearl and Emmie.  Violet is darling;  she is tiny (about half the size of the other hens) and very independent and a bit of a loner.  My Americaunas are named Latte, Breve, and Macchiato.  Breve seems to have poor conformation in her tail, it hangs down all the time.  I am still working on the others names.  They love their big run and cozy coop.  Every night just before dusk they all head into the coop and roost.  I lock them in so that they are safe from murderous racoons and coyotes.  I keep their coop and run clean and they get treats twice a day in addition to their chicken feed.  Below is a pic of my Polish rooster, I think he is terribly handsome.  I hope you think so too.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

MAKING NEW LOOK OLD

If you're like me you appreciate the look of old, well used garden tools and pots.  It gives us an indication that they served (or serve) their purpose well and have a story to tell.  I am fond of the vintage look of pots in particular.  Terra cotta can be tricky however, because it tends to disintegrate over time.  I have a need for 24 pots to go into some iron "window boxes" that my husband had created for me and wanted them to have a well worn look.  I used the popular and easy method of lime application to the pots.  I purchased powdered lime from the local hardware store (I now have enough for the rest of my life!), poured about 2 cups of lime into a plastic container and added water slowly, stirring until I reached the desired consistency.  I have done this two different times now;  the first time the lime was too watered down,  which offered minimal results.  The 2nd time it was too thick.  After the lime has been applied to clean pots with a paint brush, allow it to dry.  When dry use fine grit sandpaper and sand the lime off, stopping when you have achieved the look you want.  Keep in mind that when you water the plants you put in your new "vintage" pots more of the lime will wash off the first time.  Ta da!  New "old" pots.  It's a very simple and effective way to add charm to your garden.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RASPBERRIES RULE

We have a bumper crop of both Golden and Red Raspberries this year.  I don't know if it's the excessive rain or if the bushes have just finally matured.  The berries are large and juicy.  I had two gallon ziplocks in the freezer from last year and decided it was time to make jam.  I haven't made raspberry jam before, just strawberry and pear jam.  Speaking of pear jam, it is to die for.  I use a recipe that was given to me by my mother in law.  But again, I digress, back to raspberry jam.  I managed to get 40 jars in assorted sizes. I can't imagine we will go through all of that in one year so I plan on giving plenty of it away as gifts.  I must say it turned out delicious.  Nothing beats homemade preserves.  There are many, many more berries left on the bushes.  I haven't decided if I will freeze them or make more jam.  I'm sure I will give some of them away as well.  Here's hoping your berries are producing profusely.  Happy canning!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Rosemary only grows where the mistress is master - anonymouta

CHERRY TIME

It is cherry season here in the Pacific Northwest.  They are readily available at the farmers market and at roadside stands.  There is even a little stand on the side of the road selling them for $1.00 a basket, quite a steal if you ask me.  Rainier and Queen Anne varieties are in high demand.  We are the proud owners of a Rainier cherry tree, unfortunately we have had this tree for about 8 years and this is the first year we had any cherries at all.  We had exactly 5, that is until the birds managed to get 4 of them.  We were so excited to see our little cherries finally making an appearance and just as they ripened the birds came snacking.  However, they took mercy upon us and left us one.  I took a picture of it just before we picked it and my daughter and I shared it.  It was delicious.  Hopefully. next year we will get more than 5 and hopefully, I will do some preventative maintenance and throw some bird netting over the tree.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UNEXPECTED VISITORS

No, the unexpected visitors are not people who have just "dropped by".  These visitors are of the amphibian variety.  For some strange reason (all the rain we have had this year?) we have had one decent sized turtle, possibly a Red Slider, and two large bullfrogs show up in the back portion of our property.  They appear to have made their way up from the seasonal stream/swamp that we have just behind us.  They would have had to travel quite a distance to arrive at the location where we found them.  I have no idea why they would leave their swampy home but they did.  They managed their way through brambles, mud and skunk cabbage and crawled through a field fence finally coming to rest near the chicken coop.  They probably stopped there because that is where the dogs found them.  Fortunately,  all they did was bark with alarm and did not harm them.  We scooped them up and returned them to their safe haven.  I wonder if they will try and come back to visit.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Georgia O'Keefe anyone?

Calla Lilies always remind me of Georgia O'Keefes beautiful paintings.  She was a master at capturing the essence of the simplicity of beautiful flowers.  I have not had much success with Callas but this one has done quite well.  It must be in exactly the right place because the one that is just 10 feet south has never done much of anything.  It is not a huge plant but delivers lovely blooms every spring and grows slowly but surely as the years pass.  Green leaves and long strong stems support a single velvety white bloom with a yellow stamen.  Does a flower get any simpler than the Calla with absolute perfection in form and beauty?   


OH NO!!

I have 100 boxwoods that I nearly ruined myself planting about 5 years ago.  They were in 5 gallon pots and are on the list of "the hardest things we have done on the property."  Up until this year they have done beautifully.  They are the exterior definition of my back perennial beds with some of them on the interior of the border.  Last fall I carefully pulled out the soaker hoses that I no longer needed.  Some of the roots had grown around the hose so I clipped it on either side of the bush and pulled it out so as not to disturb the roots.  This spring the result of that decision has hit hard.  They are in shock and may be dying.  I am just sick!!  They are the backbone of my garden layout and were very expensive.  As I have looked down into the center of the large dying areas I can see bits of green, so I have decided that I must cut out the dead so that the new growth can get light and air.  This is going to be another one of my large tasks but must be done.  Hopefully it is the correct thing to do.  It doesn't make sense to me to leave the dead on the bush.  They are no longer the perfect beautiful bushes they were last year.  I am so sad. Does anyone have another idea as to how I can save these boxwoods?