Monday, February 28, 2011

Out, Out Damned Spot!

Well, it has finally happened... after a full year of fooling around in the garden with little a care or bother in the world, never covering our mouths when we coughed, touching plants left and right without handwashing, leaving weeds all over the place and other general misbehavior.

Yes thats right, The Children of the Corm garden is... diseased.  Under quarantine.  Fungus coming out of our ears.

It all started on a brilliant warm muggy day last week when I went to my car like I do every day, and passed by the large jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) I have growing over a 15 foot section of fencing.  Hmm, I said to self, why are those few leaves bright orange?  Eh, I'm in a hurry, I said to self.

The following day, also bloomed bright and humid and I looked at the ground outside the fence and noticed that the now pretty orange leaves were on the ground.   Hmmm, I said to self, must look into this when get chance.

Zoom by a week, because time flies, as they say, when you are not paying attention to your plants well-being, and there are now many many many orange leaves, even more on the ground, and every single other green leaf now has big spots.

The nursery confirmed that I had a major case of fungal leaf spot, and get this... the jasmine is going to lose ALL of its leaves.  Distressing under any circumstance, but considering this lovely (or formerly lovely) plant is supposed to be blooming in just over a month, this just sucks.

Decisive action has now been taken, (after a week of sloth, but lets not remind me).  The jasmine will undergo three separate 10 day apart drownings in fungicide... so will all plants near it.   So did the other jasmine on the other part of the fence just in case he even thinks about fraternizing.  I have bagged up the diseased leaves and will continue to do so.

Hopefully that will rid my garden of the pestilence.   Secondary action was also taken.  The nursery has instructed me to fertilize the plant like a maniac, every week until bloomtime in hopes of pushing up some new healthy greenery on what will shortly be a bunch of strappy twigs running all over the fence.

sniff.  He was sooo pretty last year, see?  now look.  I took a walk around town today noting that nobody else's jasmine seems to be a mess.   I passed dozens.  All of them green and leathery healthy as can be.  grrr.

Not only that but I'm back on the claritin.  The only thing I like about cold weather is it equals no claritin. Acho.  Meh.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You TOO Can Build Your Own Trellis in just 30 Minutes!

I've been looking for a trellis for a climbing rose I planted back in May.  As one might suspect, it did quite a bit of growing since May and is now in big need of a trellis.  A big, substantial, tall, won't be bullied by a monster rose-type trellis.

But here I have had several problems and no, none of them have been from laziness.  I know, its always a possibility, but not this time.

First, as do a lot of houses in coastal flood plains, my house sits on 3 ft. tall brick piers.  This makes my doors, windows etc etc, (other visual clues) 3 feet taller than one would suspect just by a casual glance.   Basically, meaning a 6 foot trellis just ain't gonna cut it, it will just look stupid from the back step only 3 feet higher.  Not only that, but the climbing rose itself grows along the lines of 15 feet or so.  I needed a taller trellis than I could find available around here, which was 86 inches, for those of you who are counting. (7 ft 1 inch, for those who can't do math).

Also, the space I'm trying to fill against my house really needed a 3 foot wide trellis.  Not 2, not 4, not a fan.  3 foot wide.  Apparently nobody else in the world has a commercial need for this product.

And finally, online I found a few in the 96 inch plus area that I was hoping for, but they were 100 dollars plus shipping!  I am waaaay too cheap for that.   So finally fed up with fighting that rose to get out of the back door I drove myself to Lowe's and built me a trellis.   It was a piece of cake and I'll never buy a trellis again in my life.

Here's what you will need:

*5 pieces of 1x2x8 (or x10 or whatever height you want) in cedar (or any rot resistant wood)
*a drill, with a drill bit
*16 aluminum or stainless steel 1.5 inch-ish screws.  Aluminum/stainless or you'll be pulling out rusted ones within the year.
*tape measure
*a cat or child to make the process 3 times as long and more dangerous for all involved

You won't even need a saw, because what you are going to do is walk your 5 sticks over to the saw area in Lowe's, bat your eyelashes, and ask the guy there to take 2 of those pieces and cut each of them into two 3ft pieces, 2 six inch pieces, and whats left will be a one foot piece (which you will not use but maybe your dog will like).

The guy will probably smile and ask you a stupid question such as whether or not you know to use aluminum/stainless steel screws.  Stick your tongue out at him.  How dare he. You know this. Just because you are wearing very cute 3 inch heels and awkwardly dragging 10 ft boards around in Lowe's does not mean a damn thing.

Take all this home.  Total cost: $15.68 (assuming you don't have to buy a drill)
Lay out your design on your living room floor. Such as this:

Take a tape measure and decide the midway point (for me at 1.5 feet) and decide how much side overhang you want (for me it was 4 inches), for you it might be none.  Line up your four 3 foot long cross boards and draw a line through all of them where those 3 upright stakes are going.. straight is best but close enough is close enough.

Now take your drill and put your drill bit in and drill pilot holes in the middle of each line.  Do not drill into your hardwood floor.  It is tempting, but much better in the end if you avoid it.

Repeat the process for the 3 longer pieces - just don't drill all the way through.  Figure out where you want the cross boards to go and then measure it out, stickem together, draw a line and then drill.   Make sure you leave at least a good foot at the bottom to sink your trellis into the ground.  You could measure each one of these out individually but its a total waste of time.  The lines work just as well.

Once all drilled get out your trusty screws and if you haven't messed up all the holes will align and you will have a nice pretty cedar trellis.   I would suggest securing the top and bottom cross bars first to make the thing easier to square. Unless you are going for that drunk parallelogram look, of course.

I attached the 6-inches pieces to the back of the uprights to allow me to attach this to my house without having the trellis directly beside the structure.  Into those I'm going to screw in a hook screw which is going to attach to the side of my house with a matching eyehook screw.  If you don't live in a windy place and never get hurricanes, I guess you can skip this step all together.  I take no chances here.

I painted mine with 2 coats of leftover latex white paint so that it matches the architecture of my house and the white picket fence, but being as it is cedar, if left alone it will get that pretty weathered look in a year or so.

So a reminder why we are doing this:  similar substantial trellis, if you could find it: $100++, this structure: $15.68 plus one half an hour.  That, folks, is $85 dollars that can be spent on plants, while telling significant other you finally bought that trellis.  And no, you don't know how that drill hole in the living room floor got there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Graveyard Gardens

I'm not sure anyone does creepy graveyards as good as the South.

A couple of blocks away from my home is a churchyard cemetery.  Charleston is a relatively dense city downtown, where zero lot line houses and narrow lots line the majority of the streets, tasking people to be creative in their garden growing tactics.   Sometimes I see quoted though, that Charleston is a city inside a garden, and it really does seem that way some days.   No matter what structure you are looking at, or what purpose it may serve, it is festooned with plants and greenery growing out of every available crack.

This cemetery is no different.  It is a wild garden which is in bloom of some kind 10 months out of the year.  Today, the paperwhites are up.. the smell of the place is insane, there are so many of them growing around, amongst and even in the graves.   While most of the greenery is still dormant in February, a few camillas still are holding onto their wintertime blooms, and there is evidence that at any moment the banksia roses and the summer snowdrops will be joining the party.    Hydrangeas, mostly sticks are showing little pricks of green.

Can you imagine what this place looks like at dusk?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Second Year Garden

I went out to the garden to do a little work for the first time since December.  The rotting remains of once vibrant leaves, looking like zombies of their former selves, are coating all the available dirt.   The ephemeral-ness of gardens sort of pisses me off.   Sigh.

I learned a lot last year from my first gardening year.  Most of what I really tried to make survive, did just fine, despite less than an inch of rain during summer.  Yes, the entire 3 months, with 89 straight days above 90.

But today, I am ripping out my mistakes none the less.    Lantana is a great plant for this area, but I have to face it. I hate it.  It just smells awful to me.  Its unkempt in a way that does not appeal to me.  And its downright huge.  I pulled the biggest offender out of the back garden today, and the other 3 in the front garden's days are numbered.   Life is too short and there are too many other things I want to grow for lantana to be in my life anymore.  (if any of you Charleston people want a 4x4 ft lantana plant you just let me know).

I also moved the butterfly bush.  It is also too big and needs too much sun for where it fits.  So he's gone out back to the parking area where he can have all the room and sun he can stand.  I won't really get to see him much as he lies beyond the fence... but hey, my neighbors will be happy come August with this great purple bush growing where weeds once grew.

Showy evening primrose is doing a little too well, and I ripped out half of that.  Now that he's very established, and in an idea situation, according to the experts, he better be covered in blooms or he's gone this time next year.  Too invasive.

I got rid of the crinum lilies (gift to my mom).  They just aren't me.  They grew well though.  And by the way should you ever want to dig them up they the bulbs are the size of eggplants down there!

I got rid of the Sedum (Autumn Joy).  For the time it was blooming it was great... but at least here, it looks like giant broccoli for 80% of the year.  Just not me, and doesn't match all the other flowers in that super sunny portion of the garden.

The yarrow, which I cannot keep from the super flop, is also going to Virginia, as soon as things thaw up there, where it can be planted in the 'ignored' bed, and just be a field flower.

In the spaces left by all this, I am adding some more of what did great, AND I loved.  I will be adding a few more coneflowers, more agapanthas, more area for cleome to reseed, and a few more rose bushes.  I have another hydrangea whom I got for 4 dollars in late November and never made it out of its pot.  And its out there putting out buds, despite his severe neglect.   I have planted a start of blue sky vine (Thunbergia Grandiflora) which was stolen (the cutting) from a neighbor (I hope he forgives me, and cringe if he saw me out there at 7am trying to cut the piece with my keys).    And when the time comes in May foxgloves will again be the star of the show around here.  

For full year top performance at my house anyway the awards go to the various rose bushes and the coneflowers, they really didn't care that we had a real feel temperature of 104 for all of July and August.  As far as annuals go, the angelonias, torenias and African bush daisies are the winners and they will all be back, in force.

Finally, I also learned that I can't be a full time blogger.  I just get too distracted, so I think what I'll do is just post when I have something to report or show, and if its twice one week and then once in 3 months, that will just be the way that it has to be!!!  I want to do it, but I don't want to stress about it!

Happy Gardening 2011 everyone.  I have the next two weeks to clean up and get the garden ready for the race, and then we're off to a year #2!!!