Friday, November 25, 2011

When Good Yards Go Bad

I'm loving this "bad" theme here lately, so I think I'm going to start a sporadic series focusing on something I think a good deal about while shaking my head.   Bad yard taste.   And let me stop the hate mail here... I'm all for personal expression: garden gnome check, flamingo or two, check, wild garden for lawn check.  But there are some things, I believe, that happen out there to yards, that we can all agree is just.. well, there's no nice way to say this: an abomination.

So here is my first entry to the "When Good Yards Go Bad" series, its worth clicking on to get the full effect:

Replacing all grass in front yard with Yaupon...hell yeah, all of it!

I give you not two, not three, but 4 rows of yaupon holly (and a short 5th if you look close), with rows three and four having no space between each other or between row 2.   And even the two rows originally meant to flank the front walk are close to growing together.  And lets not forget there was money changing hands for someone to turn this entire front yard into meatballs.   I kid you not folks, these people, in a highly affluent neighborhood, have decided to fill their entire front yard with meatballs.   I couldn't even get the other half of them in the same picture.  They have another double row leading down the path to the back yard.   I only wish I could get the whole effect on camera like you can if you happen to come across this place in town.

I love hedge, yes I do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy Plant Spotlight

I get no pleasure out of gardening being hard.  None whatever.  I know there are a few of you out there who really do buy plants that require tons of work just because they require tons of work, but the most of us end up getting these pain in the butt plants because they are different and pretty and not something you see growing in everyone else's garden.

So, after a few years of hanging out in the garden blogosphere, I have come to notice that one of my killer, "so super easy its silly" plants that I inherited from my Mother the very first month I started gardening, NEVER gets mentioned.  I mean, at all.  Like my mother and I are two of the handful of people who are growing it on Earth.  So, for some of you, do I have a treat for you: a plant that is a piece of cake, super 6+ month blooming flower bonanza that requires no care, grows in pots, or in the ground, or inside, along with other things, or by themselves, and comes in various colors... oh, and likes shade.   
Courtesy of Grumpy Gardner

And its actually a rhizome/tubery thing that you can practically just throw anywhere and shove some dirt over.   Have you guessed yet?

Its called achemines.  (ah-kem'-ma-nees).  Mine are the non hybridized originals that come with dark green leaves and dark purple flowers, but now they come in light pink, and medium pink, and every sort of purple, yellow and white.  And I saw one on the web that was white and purple.   

Mine started out as one small pot of them, hanging out in the shade.  The next year I thought, hey, lets plant some of these as dress shoes around another plant, and after another winter when the annual partner died...then there were two pots.   I upgraded the original pot to a large pot, which completely filled itself with them in a few months and bloomed all summer and most of fall.   Apparently I must have left a few of the tubers (they are small), in the original pot, and now I've got yet another pot on the rise.  

The Original

I let mine die back in the winter as I can leave them outside.  I think anyone north of here would have to pick up their pots and bring them inside (just out of the hard freezing), but that would be the extent of your work for the year on them.   As I understand it, you can even just bring them into the house and keep them a bit watered and they'll bloom all year long.   My house plants have said I suck at house plants so I don't even try.

So obviously, if you live in zone 9a and higher I wouldn't plant them in the ground as naturalizing would probably be an understatement, but otherwise I can't think of a more charming, profuse, AND DIFFERENT, shade loving plant.   Makes great hanging baskets because it's habit is about 1-1.5 feet but also the edges tend to sprawl over too as they get heavier, in a small pot this works well, and I have a circle stake in the middle of the big pot to help keep things rounded in the center.

Name: Achemines
Hardy: Zone 9a/8b
Type: Rhizome
Setting: Bright shade. Does not like direct sun, will scorch leaves
Blooming: Late spring til mid fall.
Watering: average, to slightly below average
Multiplies quickly

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bad Things (Part II)

Well, it has been a research paper that has held me up,  my anxious garden friends, not jail.  Though post graduate education is sort of like jail, come to think of it.  It seems to take forever to get out, and once you are out, you're not quite sure you can integrate into the real world.

So just a quick recap, for those of you whom I can't induce to read the first part (hint), Bad Things, Part I, exhausted from staying up the night before, due to the arsonist, and returning home with a fresh new pair of pruners,  the protagonist of this tale turned down the path of (mild)evil and decided to liberate two cuttings from their bushy homes in front of a non-abandoned church mid service..........

Before I continue, just so you can get a clearer picture of the circumstance, you need to know that I too am one of those people WHO NEVER DO STUFF LIKE THIS, not because I'm afraid of jail (that never even crossed my mind, you people really are a wee anxious, I must say!), but because I am a rule follower by nature and fall apart if I get caught doing anything.  I don't even tell white lies well.   So when I tell you my heart was pounding because so far all signs had pointed to this being a bad idea, I'm not kidding: it was pounding.

I looked to the left, I looked to the right, and saw nobody looking at the miniature parking lot with one extra administrative space, noticed nobody that looked like church personnel, then slowly, stealthily snuck into the spot.  Finally, I was committed.... or was I?  I had this herky jerky feeling as I put the car in park.. this was WRONG!  Now, not only was I about to borrow rose cuttings, but I was also PARKING ILLEGALLY!  This crime was growing exponentially!  Its like lying, you cannot just tell one lie! Now I understand how people become career criminals... it can happen in mere seconds.  Rose Rustling the gateway crime.

And, what if the m.i.a. church person came? I'd be trapped, potentially by a man of God, and then be forced to lie on top of stealing and trespassing and illegal parking!  Caught up in this moral quagmire induced anxiety, I put the car back into reverse and started to leave.  I really did, but just as quickly I reversed positions and said out loud to myself "Jess, people park in other peoples spaces all of the time.. nobody ever died of this, what is wrong with you!? Just get the (badword) roses already, you could have walked here 3 times over in this amount of time!" and then pulled once more into the space and turned the car running lights off.  Good grief, already.

Now, let me tell you something, having a Prius has more advantages than gas mileage for those sneak-thief oriented individuals.  It is totally silent if you are going under 10 mph or so.  Meaning I could hide the black car in the dimly lit space, totally on, but not looking or sounding like it, and then run out pruners aloft, get the rose cuttings, run back in, throw it in reverse, and peel out silently in seconds flat.  Its probably the best getaway car ever made, come to think of it, so at least I had that going for me.  I looked up and down the street for a car that looked suspiciously like a church mobile, and seeing none I gave myself 30 seconds, and I was off at a trot, like a pro, clicking back the pruner safety as I ran.

The bushes, which are about 7-8 feet tall were encased in shadow, and looked nothing like their daytime counterparts. I couldn't see one stem from another.   "Ah, this is finally going well, ya big wussy" I though to myself as I reached for the large bush to position the pruners. Snip.  One fell into my hand.  I reached in again, feet poised for the getaway, grabbed the bush and .... OOOOOWWWWWWWWHHHH!  I looked at my bloodied thumb.  The bush had meted its justice.  I had a mega gash in my thumb from what could only have been the worlds largest and sharpest ultra-thorn.   This by far was the worst gardening injury I have sustained thus far in life.  I am totally not exaggerating when I say it could have killed me. Yes I am, but I want drama. And holy crap: now I had left DNA on the scene! All those years of watching CSI were for naught...I am the worst criminal ever!

Run away, run away! I took my one cutting, thumb in mouth, and ran back to the Prius, and peeled (silently) out of the parking lot.  I didn't look back until I had reached the corner, the cutting tossed on the passenger seat not even in the carefully retained water.

I would love to tell you that somehow I lost my pruners in this attempt because it would be both fitting and a wonderful story ender, but sadly it wasn't the case.  I made it home, 45 seconds later, no fuzz on my tail.  Safe.

But there is a lesson in here somewhere, a real moral to the story, and just in case you haven't figured it out, this entire tale is to let you all know so you don't make the same mistake I did:

Do not pick roses in the dark.

okay okay, just kidding... and I know, I know.  I did a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad Things

So, I did a bad thing.  No I didn't litter or hurt anyone or any animal, but I did permanently borrow something.  Without asking.  Yes, it has taken me a while to work up to the deed.  I pass by the tempting place frequently enough and just keep on walking.  Sometimes I pause, but nothing more.  But something happened this evening when I was driving home from Lowe's after purchasing ANOTHER set of hand pruners, having, I assume, thrown yet another pair out with the yard waste.  I keep doing this.  Trim trim trim, bag up for city compost, can't find pruners two days later.  But as I was saying...

You see, I couldn't stop thinking about them, having seen them resplendent a few days ago on one of my walks.  Outside a church that will remain nameless.  Two of them, encroaching on the sidewalk, as they were.  Taunting me.

And there I was driving home, in the dark, with sharp new pruners in the passenger seat, and a half filled bottle of water I stopped drinking abruptly when the bad deed crossed my mind.  And just like that, I decided: I was going to do it.  I was going to steal two cuttings off of the most magnificent rose bushes in all of downtown Charleston, under cover of darkness.  Super double sneaky style.

And there's were things started to go not as planned...

It all started with this whole cover of darkness premise.  Because the time had changed just 2 days previous I had this false sense of lateness.  Also I hadn't slept well that night because there's a mad arsonist in town burning houses down in the middle of the night for kicks and having so far burnt 82 houses in the past 8 years without our top notch PD even having a clue, Monday at 4am another house was alight not two blocks from me.  But lets not get me started on the arsonist here.  Talk about bad things grrrr.   So anyhow,  I was driving the extra few blocks to the target flora, and as I approached the street (urban, buildings on both sides), I realized there were people all over the (badword) place.  I checked the clock.  It was precisely 6:22.  (badword)! Now fortunately there was still a lot of darkness, because Charleston is just one of those places that tries to keep every block just light enough to film a Vampire movie.  So my nerve held.

And then problem #2 became apparent.  The Church WAS FULL of people too!  On a Tuesday. Argh.

And then I realized the most troublesome fact thus far... because it was after 6, but not very far after 6, the evening parking restrictions were lifted and there wasn't a spot to be seen.  I mentally backtracked.  (another badword)!  I hadn't seen any parking spots for many many blocks. Argh.  Plus there were  4 unsuspecting cars stacked patiently up behind me, as Southerners inexplicably have the power to do,  as I crawled past the church bushes casing them.  I turned around looking at my options.   My mental picture of rolling up to the church pruners reaching out of the car and lop lop was withering.  But I also knew my puritanical other identity which usually rules when not exhausted and carrying pruners would never let this opportunity happen again.  I knew it was now or never.  My heart rate ratcheted up as I saw someplace to park... right between the two church buildings in one of the 5 spots labeled "xxx Church Staff Only.  Violators will be Towed.

{to be continued}