Thursday, March 24, 2011

Garden Statuary Redux: Naked Women?

So its been a year since I decided that I wanted a statue for my garden, and even left a place for it to stand, unplanted.   I have hemmed and hawed, and looked at lots of cement but for some reason I have not been able to just bite the bullet and get one!  There is something about 'stuff' in the garden, to me it either seems to work or REALLY not work, and the exact formula for why this is isn't apparent.  Haven't you seen those yards that look like Zeus came and threw up on them?  I can't help but think 'wannabe NJ mafia' every time I see them! (and if you are in the NJ mafia please I mean no offense, its just our styles are different you see).  I've also seen garden gnomes gone awry, and country kitschy which veered into "I've also got my VEE-HICKLE up on blocks on around the side o the shed."  But I have seen all of this done well too, and while I jest, it isn't just an overabundance that makes or breaks it.  Its something else, or lots of something else's.

Anyhow, so here I still am with no statue.  I have narrowed the choices down, and I vacillate between non-naked ancient females, and more modern female forms more in the art deco vein.   Cutesy is out, as are Buddhas, St. Francis's and Mary's on the half shell.  Animals are out, and while I like really like the ideas of gargoyles and fairies I don't think either really fit my personality, and frankly, gargoyles just don't hang out near white picket fences.  Its against their very nature.  There is nothing gothic about my home, unfortunately.

Now on the naked, how do you feel about that?  I consider myself the opposite of prudish, and believe many of the 'naked' works of art in this world are just wonderful, however I wonder if I got one of these goddesses with boobs showing if I would ever stop saying to myself, "hmmm, that boob is out."  Something about having a life sized boob hanging out in the garden day in and day out just doesn't say "restful" to me.  And heaven forbid there was ever a sub 35 year old male that had to be back there for any length of time while keeping up a normal conversation that didn't mention the fact that there were boobs loose in the garden.

I have also thought briefly about some other ornamental item, i.e. a fountain, or a large urn or a combination fountain/large urn, but these just don't seem to be doing it for me either.  What I want is a statue.

Here's the latest in the slew of considerations. Any of these strike you as tasteful and workable?  I am scared to death I am going to bring home some totally gaudy 100 pound albatross.  Because once the deed is done I don't think you can take it back! And it won't be easy to hide either....

Assume my version would be fully covered!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garden Fiction

This time of year nothing is moving fast enough for me.  The winter wait is over, the early spring rituals of cleaning up the dead and fertilizing the "soon to be" has been completed weeks ago, and now all there is left to do is wait.  And wait.  Despite the fact that when I go out each and every morning with my coffee to inspect each plant and do indeed find progress, it is never enough.   More dirt than plant is visible to the naked eye and though I know those perennials with a few leaves sticking out of the dirt will definitely be several feet wide soon, I can't help but tell them to get with the program already.

I cannot get my mind off of gardening, basically, and yet there is nothing to do.  In times like this I turn to my other great hobby, reading, to satisfy my gardening fantasies.

We all know there are tons of non-fiction how-tos and non-fiction pictorials of gardens great and small.  We spend our winters with these books at our side plotting and planning for future gardens.  However, what really fills my fantasy world at least, during this time, is fiction books ABOUT gardening and gardeners.  They are not as easy to sniff out and not nearly as common, but what fun to curl up with a good story and still be immersed in green and dirt and flowers.

Below is a selection of fiction of various kinds that I think might be worth a read for the garden crazy person.  I hope you enjoy!

Historical Fiction
Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory

From the lady that brought you The Other Boleyn Girl, we have an historical fiction novel set in the 17th century. In this novel the main character is a gardener, John Tradescant, who is a botanist, gardener and collector in the time of King James I.  This is a very interesting look on what it would have been like to be a gardener to royalty during these times, and seems to answer some of those questions that come up when we visit old manor homes and the fabulous gardens that were wrought during those earlier times.  "What must have it been like?"

Classic Fiction
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
If you have not read or re-read this classic as an adult I highly recommend you run right out and get a copy.  I suspect this book of childhood discovery in a secret walled garden might have created many a gardener today.  This is a must read.

Trash Fiction
In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts

The books in the trilogy, Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily follow a few years in the life of a group of women operating a nursery in Memphis, Tennessee.  I'm not going to lie to you, this is trash fiction at its finest, with every heroine in her turn (each book) taking the lead in finding purpose, solving internal problems and of course, finding Mr. Right (who was right in front of her face, all the time).  Some standard cliched light romance stuff, however the main plot is actually a ghost story.  In a garden, no less.  This is perfect beach reading.

Children's Fiction
Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman
A great book for young and old alike.  This novelette follows the progress of a community of ethnically diverse people who have come together to start a community garden in a vacant city lot.  The story is told through the eyes of thirteen different characters as the garden, and the sense of community are born.  This book is the perfect story to read to that curious child or grandchild in your life, and one that you will enjoy just as much as they will!

Modern Literary Fiction
The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
For a more solid literary piece with emotional and philosophical heft, Barbara Kingsolver's book about the lives in a small mountain farming town fits the bill. Obviously, this book isn't about flower gardens, however, it does touch on the way of life of people who live on the land, by the land.  As an aside, her non-fiction work, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which reads somewhat like fiction, is a definitely must read.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth Von Arnim
A book ostensibly about what the author does with a garden one summer of her life set aside to spend all by herself.  Set in a small village, this story has brilliant descriptions of her garden plants, so much so that you can almost smell the scent off the pages.  Another great read by this author, also botanically related, is Enchanted April. I highly recommend both.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Additions For the Spring

As garden madness approaches fever pitch, I though I'd mention the 'upgrades' to the garden this year.   Hardscape, I got nothing.   Softscape, I went and bit the bullet and got myself all underdirt strung up with soaker hoses.  I am going to do my best to avoid powdery mildew and outrageous water bills this summer.  Granted, if it ever chose to rain during the summer that would help. (hint, hint Mother Nature).

But of course the new additions of note are the plants.
Image Courtesy of Antique Rose Emporium

I have added another antique rose to my collection.  Rosa "Ballerina," which is a single with appleblossom like flowers, and a heavy repeat bloomer.  Or so they say.  Also a nice fragrance.   It is a hybrid musk from 1937, chosen because it is not in a full sunlight situation.  It will get about 4 hours of direct sun, and another 5-6 of very bright indirect/reflective sun.   I'll be keeping you updated on how this 'shade tolerant' varietal does.

I purchased 2 additional Blue Storm Agapanthus to join the other 3 clumps I already have.  This varietal is shorter, by a good foot than the ones I dug and replanted from my Mom's garden, though it is the same traditional color.  I have had good success with getting these to bloom profusely and immediately, and I do it by literally planting them directly beside each other with zero 'room'.  Works like a charm.  Some times indeed you should listen to your mother.

I couldn't help but buy this tiny miniature rose from Lowe's with its perfect pink color.  It was labeled as 'Rosa'.  I can't tell you how obnoxious that is to me.  Come on now, you are telling me the person who planted this rose didn't know what type it was?   I will probably have to spend the next 20 years trying to figure out what it is.  I guess this is their solution to their terrible mislabeling of plants!  Before long everything there will just be labeled "Plant" or "Your guess is as good as mine."

I have bought two more urn style pots to plant the remaining $2.25 knockout roses I was able to acquire last November! (4 gallon sized roses for 9 bucks, steal of the century).  They are already blooming in their nursery pots they've been stranded in since last year.  I am really bad about this.  Its amazing that I actually don't kill stuff more often.  I know this whole urn potted rose thing works because I have a red knockout from last year that managed to become a 4 foot tall bush in one.  Knockout Roses are tough as nails and would probably qualify as a weed if people didn't like them so much.  They'll grow in anything!

After last years crazy tropical look in the shade corner, I'm going to try for a little different look this year, and acquired a couple of double impatiens to make the area a little less tropical looking.   It was cool and different but really not my cup of tea, particularly set against the sunny rest of the garden.  I'm not sure what else I'm going to do with this section... particularly if the persian shields come back.  And they might, it wasn't a particularly cold winter here.

As an aside, guess who I saw out today??  My little guy doesn't get sun at all til mid February due to the massive garage next door and the angle of the sun.  Now he's in the sun full time but my guess is he's going to be a few weeks later than your average Lady Banks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pink Trees & Camellias Around The Block

Take a walk with me.
Down the sidewalk we have white flowers peeking out of iron fencework.   Whoa, don't clobber yourself on that shutter.

Ah, some beautiful Saucer Magnolias (Magnolia x. Soulangiana) are out on the left, and a beautiful camellia on the right.

Back across the street I spy some more Saucer Magnolias and some unknown pretty pink trees.

And there are no flowers yet here (though they have grand gardens) but look at this ridiculous (in a magnificent way) house!   I keep hoping to run into the owner at the grocery store so she'll invite me over to drinks and let me check out her (entirely walled) garden!

Continuing on, here's another camellia just about to break out and a little face on a palm tree guarding the house.

Rounding the next corner what do we have here?? A nearly perfectly round red bush.   The Queen of Hearts would be proud.  But wait... do I see a bit of white under that red!! oh, no!

One more bit of pink hanging out behind the aspidistra.  Oh, wait there's another hidden down a driveway.  He's looking mighty stripey.

Turning again on the next corner I see my favorite pink bush on the block though... the one in front of home sweet home.