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Archive for June, 2008

Voila! A Rain Garden

I know, I know.   I promised more pictures of Seville.   I swear I am working on doing just that.  But I have discovered that there are an awful lot of images to go through.   Decisions on what to post, how to organize the post, trying to pick out the outstanding images from the hundreds of photos I took is taking more time than I thought it would, especially since I have been obsessively working in the stroll garden.  

What I have learned about travelling to distant places from the process of going through pictures  is that what seems commonplace to the inhabitants of an area becomes amazing and wonderful when viewed by eyes that are not inured to the view.  One of the things that started to obsess me in Spain was the amazing tile work.   I could, and very well may, concoct an entire post of nothing but tiles.   So, my decision making process becomes even more complex as I look through the pictures.  

“Am I going to make an entire post about tiles?  If so, should I include some of the tile work in my post about the Alcázar and its gardens, or save it for the later post?”   These and other ruminations complicate my decision making process.    Ruminations like: “Why did I take a picture of THAT?”   “Geez this is so out of focus.”   “Oh my heavenly days what on earth made me think I would get a clear picture in the dark?”  “I should be walking the dog.”   “I need to weed the vegetable garden.”   “Oops, that is a massage client knocking on my door, better get to work.”

So, dear readers, you will notice that the title of this post says nothing about Spain and everything about what has beeen my work obsession in the yard this last few weeks.    And so, without further ado, I present to you the completed rain garden section of the Stroll Garden as it looked last night after the plants and mulch had been installed.

Just for contrast, I am including a picture I took five days ago when the area was still being excavated and shaped.   First, the area as it stood when I had worn myself out for the day. 

 I just had  to run outside and snap that after we got a 3/4 inch downpour and the area I had dug out neatly filled with water, just as it was supposed to.  Now, this vision made me hot to finish the job, and so I got busy and dug and moved the rest of the dirt in there, coincidentally finishing the backfilling in the rose garden that is just to the right of the rain garden in the above pictures.

Once I had the area shaped, we moved the character rocks in and set them on their bed of road base.   This process was not as simple as it sounds, since this necessitated viewing the rocks at all angles, assessing their energy and flow, and rearranging them probably 6 or 8 times before they looked “comfortable”.   This even after we had been looking at them and arranging them for at least the past 4 months in various places around the garden area.    (If you look closely in the above pictures, you can see that the arrangement of three rocks has been adjusted from one picture to the other.)  It seems that an arrangement that looks wonderful over by the fence where it is viewed from two or three vantage points is not necessarily the one that looks appropriate when the rocks are viewed from all sides.   

I also had to consult my references to find out what mulching agent was deemed correct by the “experts” on rain gardens.   I was thinking “gravel”, but every reference told me I should mulch with aged shredded hardwood, assuring the dear reader that it would not float.   This does not seem intuitively obvious to me, believing (as many folks do) that wood usually floats.   However, I set aside my prejudices and mulched with the suggested medium, commenting to Jim that “If this stuff floats when the garden is full of water, I am going to be pissed.”   This was partially motivated by one of our design features, which is the little “creek bed” of rock that runs from the “spring” (where the water from our downspout enters the garden) to where the character rocks are.

This morning, less that 24 hours after completion, we had a “scattered thunderstorm” come through the area and give us enough rain to put water in the rain garden.   In this picture, the line of rocks at the top is the border of the rose garden area.

Notice, the mulch is not floating.   Now, a close up of the little spring area, which I really like a lot.

Now, back to crunching pictures of Seville.  

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I was lying abed not sleeping at about 3:30 a.m. the other day.   What was preying on my mind was how difficult it was for me to express how travelling to Spain and Portugal affected me. 

Everywhere we went the patterns of antiquity were written in the streets.   There were statues in Lisbon that were so old that the names that were carved into the marble had eroded away along with the features of the person.  The history of the “discovery” and subsequent conquest of the New World by the Portuguese and Spanish colored my reactions to certain buildings.

We got off the Seabourn Pride in Lisbon and immediately jumped into a cab, telling him to take us to our car rental place.   It was a little confusing to find the actual company since the title of the company on the internet was different than the name on the door in Lisbon.   We achieved car.   It was a teeny tiny little car, possibly a Renaut of some sort.   It was big enough to hold us and and all our stuff, and thank heavens it was very small because the parking spaces in Spain were sized for very compact cars.   There were even times when we were parking the thing in the underground garages when I would jump out and watch the bumpers and fenders so we wouldn’t scratch anybody’s car.   Especially not the rental car!   When we rented it we received a sheet detailing exactly how many Euros they intended to extract from our Visa card if we so much as scratched a door panel.   Every kind of repair was laid out in that sheet.

We managed to get out of Lisbon, only getting lost once.   The maps and Google Earth failed to prepare us adequately for the tunnels that the freeways dive into.   Also, the highway signs were all listing the names of central squares you were headed for, not street names.   This fact was extremely confusing for us on our return to Lisbon.   But I digress.

We figured out the speed limit signs, and headed off into central Portugal, quite warm and very much astonished.   Immediately the fact that we were on an entirely different continent imposed itself upon me.   I saw strange blobs of stuff stacked on several high tension power line posts.   I recognized the untidy nests of. . . STORKS!   The power companies had provided nesting platforms on virtually every power line support.   The cell phone towers also provided habitat.   

This cell phone tower was in the middle of a highway interchange, so we exited the freeway we were on and immediately got entangled in a series of roundabouts and confusing signage.   We eventually found our way back to the interchange, pulled over and I got a nice close up of these birds in their habitat.  During our travels we noticed that there were numerous small birds who had their nests built inside the platform of twigs and branches the storks had constructed.   Their nesting platforms were entire ecosystems.

We had such a wonderful drive across Portugal.   We left the main highway behind and headed across the mountains on a little local road.   We quickly discovered the Portuguese villages’ method of speed control.   At the outskirts of every little town there was a warning sign that your speed was going to have to diminish.   Right at the edge of town they had a red/green light with a radar gun.   If you crossed the line of sight of the radar gun going over the posted limit, the light immediately turned red, as did every light in town.   Once you were at a stop, the light would turn green.   But you had to stop at every other light in town too, and wait for it to turn green.   It didn’t take very long to figure out that if you weren’t speeding, the lights stayed green.

We stopped to take pictures several times.   I was so enraptured by the lavender, rosemary and sage that were just growing wild everywhere.   There were thousands of olive trees, planted in ancient times by the Romans during their occupation of the area.   The gnarled trees that marched in orderly rows around the mountains were neglected, allowed to grow wild.   All the commercial growers were busy planting olive orcahrds in more level areas, where they could be harvested by machine.  

What a great view!   Shortly after we made this stop, we crossed the frontier into Spain, and very soon afterwards we saw our first castle.

Soon after we stopped and thoroughly photographed that one, we came around another corner and there was another village with another huge church and another castle.    The highway department wisely provided a scenic view turnout for our convenience.

Now comes a harrowing part of our experience.   I am sure that there are young people reading this blog post who are about to believe that I am lying.   We decided that since we were renting a car it might we wise to have a cell phone that would work in Europe.   So we rented a cell phone for use in Spain and Portugal, thinking it would make contacting azahar and noggin a little easier.    Now, in retrospect I think that it might have been wise for us to  at least read the instruction booklet about how to send text messages, especially since we had never actually used that feature of our cell phone.   Somehow that booklet was buried in our luggage and so Jim learned how to make and send a text message by trial and error while I was driving through the Spanish countryside.   When we traded drivers, I had the same thrill of discovery ahead of me as we approached Sevilla and our rendezvous with az and nog, who were going to show us where our apartment was located.

What we noticed as we entered Seville is that there were no street signs, rather than an occasional tile work label on a building near a corner.   There were hundreds of signs directing us to hotels.   Honestly, we got into Sevilla and followed azahar’s impeccable directions and found ourselves tooling down a broad avenue that had an identity crisis about every two blocks.   We found a blue “Park” sign, but were not sure it was the parking garage we were looking for.   We were about to have a real fit at each other in our complete confusion and frustration when a lovely dark haired woman (that would be azahar) tapped on our window and asked “Are you Ellie and Jim?”    Thank God!   We were in the right place at more or less the right time and our guides were there to meet us.   We parked the car down in the bowels of the parking garage in the incredibly narrow and short parking space, and introduced ourselves to each other.

I cannot say enough good things about the wonderful help we received from nog and az when we got to Seville.   I know that tourists find their way around that warren of streets in the old town all the time, but we were glad we didn’t have to figure it out on our own.   Not only did they show us the way, they helped carry our baggage!   Azahar made several print outs for us, helpful translations of food items, locations of wonderful Tapas bars.   Thank you so much, azahar!  You made our trip to Sevilla so much easier and more pleasant!

The trip though the streets of Old Sevilla put many historical romances I read in my youth into perspective.   I’m sure every visitor to Sevilla marvels at the narrow cobble streets, and I did too.   I also marveled at the wonderful convenience of whole blocks of street dedicated to only pedestrian traffic.   I wish there was more of that in my town!  

At the places where automobile traffic was allowed, I wondered how people managed to get around without crunching their cars.   I waited and waited at this corner to get a repeat of the vision Jim and I had of delivery vans coming around this little jog in the street that served a hotel.   I had to settle for cars, we were back with the camera at the wrong time of day.

This is the street that our apartment was located on.   We are about three doors up from it in this picture.

That is Jim walking along.   I regret to inform you that I never took any pictures of our apartment.   It was lovely and cool, completely floored and walled with white marble.   This is the view out our window.

We had our very own gargoyle downspout.

We were right across the street from the Hospital de los Venerables, which apparently was an old age home for decrepit priests in the distant past and is now a museum.   Right out our bedroom window was this bit of statuary, fully illuminated all night long.   It gave me a real start one rather inebriated evening when I caught it out of the corner of my eye as I was negotiating my way to the bathroom.   You had to be careful or you would put a foot wrong and tumble down the marble stairs rather than entereing the actual bathroom.

After we settled into our new digs, we met with Az and Nog for our first tapas experience.

The next day, we walked around and got oriented, went to the supermercado for necessities: coffee, bread, cheese, wine, olive oil, fruit, water.   On our way down there I was caught by the following advertisement.  It was worked in tile and occupied a wall along the street.

Billboards are not meant to be temporary in Sevilla!   I mean, when was the last time a Studebaker was ever made?   And this whole thing is an amazing piece of art.   I love Rodin’s “The Thinker” in the background.   And the tile work is actually a work of art, as is the artistry of these ads for Armeria Z which weren’t far from the Studebaker ad.

I found myself taking many pictures of tiles and doors during our time in Spain.   Another thing that beguiled us was how often we saw rows of old millstones worked into the walls of the buildings along the street.  There must have been a lot of milling going on in Sevilla over the years.  

There were so many things to see as we walked about the streets of Sevilla.   Many people left the big wooden doors that protected their courtyards open so you could glimpse the beauty within.

We found several fountains to admire.

Even though the streets were narrow and the houses were built right up to the edge of them, you could see that there was life gowing on above, on the rooftops.

If you got up higher, you discovered a whole world of gardens, patios, pools and even restaurants existed up there.

Everywhere the weight of years surrounded us.   And so, we decided that we had better take in some of the historical sights available to us.  

Tomorrow:   The Alcázar and its gardens, The Cathedral of Seville, The Gardens of Marie Louise.

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That was then, this is now

So, a few hours after my last blog post, this is what the stroll garden looks like.   In addition to having some shape to the rain garden, Jim got the drain pipe from the house eaves to the rain garden installed.   Water actually runs out of what appears to be a spring now.

I also transplanted a couple of hostas and a heuchera that badly needed relocating.   All of them were under the skirts of hostas and other plants that were much bigger than them.  Just look at the hosta dell now.   Soon the roof will be done over the shade protection arbor.   But for now, it is just beautiful.

A new mandala caught my eye.  It is a nerembergia blossom. 

Now, I need to take a bath.   I may have overdone.  Consider this a bonus post!

 

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I made muffins for breakfast today.   I experimented with the fruit and nut muffins from the King Arthur Flour cookbook and substituted a cup of oat meal for one of the cups of flour.   Applesauce and almonds were the fruit and nuts, and they turned out splendidly.   We had them with home made fig preserves.  Yummy.

I realized that I completely missed Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day this month.   I was distracted from actually taking picutres of the place yesterday by the tornado warnings and the severe thunderstorms.   So I ran around today and snapped a couple of views I think are worthy of showing what is going on.    The following is the herb garden.

The vegetable garden is enjoying the rain too.

 

I got an email from azahar today, and, along with many of my real life friends around here, she is wondering where the pictures from Seville that I promised to post are.    Oh.  My.  God.  I am so far behind, it isn’t even funny.   It is almost exactly two months since we arrived home from vacation, and I left you hanging in Funchal.   I apologize to everyone.  When I replied to her email, I mentioned that it seemed to be a rainy day today so I thought I might work on a Seville post today.    Since then, the clouds have cleared a bit, and I may get out into the garden for a bit and do some more weeding and then transplant some more of the Creeping Jenny into my new path.

I hvae been working very hard on the stroll garden.   I finally got all the shrubs I bought last fall (except the roses) planted, and they look like they are going to survive the neglect they suffered during the spring.   Part of the reason I am so hot on the trail of stroll garden is that I still have the Knockout roses to plant, and I can’t do that before the rose bed and the rain garden are formed.   So I have been addressing that task rather than processing pictures.  

 

Notice that this area of work has led to my next entry on the “To Do” list:  

All those rocks are destined to be either stepping stones around the rain garden or border for the viburnum and ornamental grass enclosures.

We have been having so much rain here, it isn’t even funny.   The Ozarks is over 17 inches above normal for the year, and aside from everything being lush in the extreme, when you can get out into the garden you had best get there when it is raining so frequently.   Last night, in addition to getting ourselves ready for possible tornadoes in the area, we got another half inch.   Everything is soaked.   We have been spending inordinate amounts of time keeping the lawn mowed, too.

All these excuses!    We have to open the door for Smokey so often we decided to do a little experiment to see exactly how many times he goes in and out each day.   Turns out it is about 8 to 10, depending on the weather.   Not as many as it felt like!   Interestingly enough, we have learned that he can let himself out the cat door, but requires a doorperson in order to come back in.

I have been very good about walking Ruby every night.   She is the reason that I have actually been able to lose the weight I put on during the cruise.   We go a minimum of 2 miles every day.    Unfortunately,  the walks and all the gardening has not put me under the amount of calories per diem that would also allow me to get my weight under the level I was at before the cruise.   But the summer is yet young.

The downstairs neighbors finally moved out.  The mama skunk decided (wisely) that she was sick and tired of being in danger of getting locked out of her house.   As soon as her kits were big enough, she moved them to a different, more secluded, den.    The other night when Ruby and I were returning home, we saw her out foraging.

The yard birds are busy feeding and fledging young.   We have house wrens, Carolina wrens, cardinals, blue jays, house and gold finches, doves, robins, cat birds, brown thrashers and grackles all feeding babies at various stages of development.   While some of them are carrying food back to nests, many of them are attended by importunate (and apparently starving) chicks. 

I cleaned out the pond yesterday, sort of.   I removed a wheel barrow load of plant material from it and made it possible to see the water fall again.   The fish, frogs and dragonflies wished I was not doing something so disruptive.   Apparently my activities were very distressing to the grackles, too.   It must have been bird bath time or something.   The whole job was accompanied by non-stop warning and scolding from the grackle clan.   Ruby tried to help, but mostly just played and chewed on cat tail roots.   I wish I could train her to weed, or carry stuff off to the compost piles for me.

 Behind the pond is incredible right now.   This area requires the weed eater for even a semblance of order.    Sometimes you look back there and you know there is a path, but you just can’t see it.   If you look closely, you can see the spiderwort, flea bane and bright magenta blossoms of globe swamp mallow.

Well, this about brings us up to date on what has been happening around here.   I successfully switched my massage days from Monday through Friday to Tuesday through Saturday.   I realize that all the newspapers and pundits are talking about the recession we are experiencing.   I am thankful that my practice has not been suffering from the economic downturn.   My hands could use a break though.   Weeding and planting and digging are just as stressful for them as massage is.   I’ll get a bit of a break next week, I am going down to Little Rock, Arkansas, to a continuing education class in “Below the Knee.”  Should be good.  That is, assuming that a tornado doesn’t hit the area between now and then.   Which could happen, given the weather patterns we have been enjoying lately.

Apparently my services are essential for a large number of people.   We are eating a lot of stuff from the garden and trying to limit our driving.   So in addition to reducing our carbon footprint, we have been controlling our expenditures too.

Well, the sun came out and it is lovely (if extremely humid) out there.   I believe I will snag another muffin and go out and do a little garden work.   The rain is supposed to return like gang busters this evening, so I am keeping the “Tornado Baskets” packed.  

Stay tuned, Seville and environs and Lisbon are next up! 

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The other day while I was working in the front flower bed it occurred to me that I may have stumbled across a new “Rule of Thumb:”  You will know when you have enough gardens when it takes you so long to maintain the ones you already have that you don’t have any time left over for the building of new beds.   The corollary to that would be:  If you require staff in order to maintain your existing gardens, you may already have too many.

I have not quite reached this break even point in my garden.   Although I am spending quite a lot of time in maintenance duties such as weeding, dead heading, pruning, and removing spent foliage, I still have time to add square footage to the inventory of gardens.

For example, today I finally got to the entry in my “To Do” list that read “shrubs.”   This is a cryptic entry, but I knew that what it entailed was finally getting the poor shrubs I bought at the auction last fall out of their pots and into the ground.  This sounds fairly simple in concept, but this meant that I had to re-visualize the new stroll garden beds that are coming into existence.   After all, when I am planting a crepe myrtle that is destined to be 15 to 20 feet tall and around 10 feet in diameter, I don’t want to find out in five years that it is in the wrong place and it is attacking me as I stroll past it on the path.   Ditto with the various and sundry viburnums.    So after a certain amount of consulting the Master Plan,  and then pacing back and forth on the lawn as well as looking at the pine trees and roses, I put shovel to ground and actually planted shrubs.   Namely and to wit, I planted a viburnum, a sand cherrry, three spireas, anb a crepe myrtle (Country Red). 

Look Ma!  No pots!   It was a darned good thing I finally got my act together, most of those shrubs had ants living in them and in addition to being extremely dry, they were not really enjoying close association of all that formic acid with their roots.   I think if I had waited another couple of days the sand cherry might have been actually dead.   As it is, it is none too happy with me for the benign neglect it has been suffering since I evicted it from the heeling in position it occupied all winter in the squash/corn patch in my vegetable garden.

In addition, I finally placed the nine bark shrub in the rain garden and started working on completing the formation of that basin.  This is a shot of that work in progress.   In the background you can see the new flagstone path, which I have been busily interplanting with creeping jenny.

 I need to get busy on this project because I won’t be able to plant the roses I bought at the big auction until I finish forming the rain garden and building up the bed I intend to plant them in, which is just to the right out of this picture.

I just have to brag a little about the rest of the place.   The new sauna garden is growing apace.   All the little cosmos and zinnias are about three inches tall right now, and the young marigolds are not far behind.   Just off to the north of that is the root cellar.   It is really spectacular right now, with the rose bush, lavender and Stella d’Oro  day lilies in full bloom.   Off to the left you can see the fig shooting up.   I can already taste the fresh figs it will be serving up in late August.

The front garden beds are changing their aspect from the spring flowers to early summer.   This picture shows the clematis in full bloom.   Behind it you can see the alliums as they go to seed.   I keep them in the garden even during this phase because of the wonderful structure of their balls of seed heads.   Near them are some oriental lilies.  I followed this long view with a little close up that also shows the rue flowering in the right foreground.

The front planter is also going to town.   The lavender is trying to escape, and I just love the way the terra cotta colored yarrow contrasts with it.

Back in my herb garden the butterfly weed (Aesclepias tuberosa) is finally blooming.   Right behind it is the rose campion, which is also going crazy all over the place (you can see a patch of it in the middle of the picture of the front garden).    I adore the combination of orange and magenta.   It reminds me of my favorite outfit when I was in 9th grade, which consisted of an orange corduroy jumper with a magenta sweater underneath.   I got a lot of grief about that wardrobe choice, being informed in no uncertain terms by all and sundry that those two colors clash.   I believe that this photo proves that they look very good together, fashion be damned.

Maybe my critics would have liked the combination better if I had added some green to the mix.   I don’t know.   I do know that my fashion sense is pretty much non-existent.

The broccoli is looking good.   I pulled back the row cover to harvest the head that had formed while I was busy running around doing other garden chores and massage.   We already have had it for dinner once and I have about half a gallon in the freezer to boot.

Isn’t that lush?    This is what we’ll be enjoying for dinner this evening.   

A couple of days ago Jim got the pool set up.   The water is almost warm enough to get into it today.   While he was raking the sand bed to level it out prior to unrolling the pool, he discovered three rib bones that Ruby had buried there for future reference.   I’m not sure why being covered with sand makes the bone so much more delectable.  But it must.   Look how happy she is.

We have had a lot of rather wild weather in the area.   Fortunately, all the tornadoes, hail, and damaging winds have missed us so far.   I took this picture a couple of evenings ago after a wild thunderstorm had passed through, dumping about 3/4 of an inch of rain on us in around 20 minutes.    There was a tornado tracking off to the north of us, and the light as it filtered through all the clouds was amazing.

Finally, I will leave you with this image of the throat of an iris after the rain.  I took this back in May and got it all ready to post, and then forgot all about it.   I came across it as I was browsing through my “For Internet” file of photos.  This epitomizes why I love irises so much.   

Okay.  I’ve rested enough, I am fairly cooled off and the afternoon clouds have gathered a bit and are cooling it off out there.   I think I shall go back out and finish getting the nine bark settled into its new home. 

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