Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Pilgrim's garden

 NOTE: This is a repost from 2011...

Back in August, we visited Plimouth Plantation, a recreated village representing how the Pilgrims lived when they first came over on the Mayflower. I posted a while back about the gardens of the local Wampanoag Nation. Here's the Pilgrim garden post.

The deeply religious Pilgrims did not show skin and thought of the Wampanoags as ignorant and child-like in their skin-exposing clothing. Can you imagine gardening in the hot sun dressed like this?

Men planted fields of wheat, barley, peas -- all from seeds brought over from Europe. They also planted new plants the Wampanoags introduced to them -- corn, beans squash and pumpkins. Fields were outside the village and where men would go and spend their days. The Wampanoags also helped show the pilgrims when to plant and how to plant seeds in poor soil by burying seeds with fish to decompose & nourish the soil.

Raised-bed gardens allowed them to condition their soils appropriate to the plantings within.Produce not only fed themselves, but was traded with the Wampanoags for furs. Most furs were shipped back to Europe to sell, so they'd have money to purchase clothing, sugar, spices, gunpowder and more. So life & economy depended on their gardens. Indian corn was different from what we eat today -- it had different colors on the same ear, and was not eaten off the cob. It was dried and pounded into flour for cooking & baking. Corn was part of almost every meal.

The village was made of a couple dozen homes. Back then, people had little education and tended to spell things phonetically (like my sixth-grader). In much official correspondence the settlement was referred to as "Plimouth" not today's "Plymouth." So when deciding the name of this unique tourist attraction, they settled on what the settlers used -- "Plimouth Plantation."

Each home had its own garden as well, for each family's consumption. Women grew basil, parsley, lettuce, carrots, turnips and onions. It was the kid's job to weed. In most cases, the folks coming over on the Mayflower had never gardened before. Now they had to garden to live through the winters. If I had to live off the produce from my garden, I wouldn't last though September.

Plymouth Rock is worth a quick look, but really, it's just a rock. The actors that populate Plimouth Plantation stay not only in character, they take on the persona of an actual person that came over on the Mayflower. We ran across a Pilgrim woman in her back yard sitting in the shade near her garden. People were asking her all sorts of questions about her garden. She was Dutch, as many of the Pilgrims were. many of the Pilgrims had left England a decade or so earlier to settle in Amsterdam, married there and brought their families to New England with them.

Some kid's got some weeding to do.One person asked if they grew tomatoes. She didn't know what a tomato was. She asked if they knew the name of tomato in Dutch, then she might be able to help. So of course, some wise-ass pulls out his iPhone and was looking up the Dutch word for tomato. Back in the 1600s, tomatoes were not a known commodity.

We also went into the town of Plymouth to see the Mayflower reproduction ship. There were more actors on board answering questions about their voyage over. The trip over sucked -- spending most of their time below deck and sharing meager rations with rats. Though on the plus side, all they drank was beer. That's what everyone drank all the time. It was a very weak beer and safe to drink, as opposed to the available water.

Make sure you get some classic Pilgrim foods – corn & beer! Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Potter Shed planning

The design inspiration. That uppermost
round-topped window is being replaced.
The one you see here will be used in the shed.
In order to create a list of materials needed for the "Harry Potter Garden" shed I'll be building in the spring, I have to have better plans than the sketches I posted previously. I'm only a "weekend carpenter" and have never tackled a project this large.
Fortunately, I am an art director and know my way around measurements, scale, color, production – and softwares that help me put it all together. Here are some "drawings" I made in Adobe Illustrator. The file is in layers – so that the actual frame drawing below is underneath the color illustrations in my file. I did it to a 1"=1' scale in my original drawings to make my life easier. Now I have a better idea of how much, and what size, lumber will be required.

I plan to use as much used and repurposed items as possible. I've taken measurements of the doors and windows I already have that are either coming off my house, or were here in the garage or attic when we moved in (14 years ago!). I also have a pile of scrap lumber left over from the jungle gym that was in this spot previously.

One of the first things I did was check the city code for building sheds. It turns out I do not need a permit to build. From the city's website: A BUILDING PERMIT IS NOT REQUIRED FOR: Construction or installation of one story detached structures associated with one-or two-family dwellings or multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) which are used for tool and storage sheds, playhouses or similar uses, provided the gross floor area does not exceed 144 square feet (13.88m2). At 8'x10' mine will be well under that at 80 sq. ft., so I'm covered.

I figure my life will be easier if I do everything in stages over time. The goal will be to have as much completed by Garden Walk Buffalo as possible. (July 25 and 26, 2015). I won't stress if it's not quite there at that time.
Below is what I'm thinking. I am officially obsessed. Losing sleep thinking this through almost every night. Beats obsessing over how much sleep I'm not getting.
The front of the shed will actually face into my garden, so it won't be seen from the street. The 15-glass-pane door, round -topped feature window, diamond-mullioned window, a "porch" roof, a rain chain, roof-peak finial, window boxes and a solar light made of a terracotta pot ought to charm it up.
The Harry Potter Garden will return to its original spot in front of this facade of the shed. Still not sure if the roof here will be tiled, or shingled. Price will be a determining factor. It will also get an arbor for a climber, up over the windows.
Much like the house, I'll do a bay window here with an interior ledge for early spring plant growing. I already have lots of diamond shaped lattice scraps in the garage from past projects for a trellis. The siding and shingle style and patterns are taken from the house.

The roof here on the back side will be corrugated clear plastic panels. It won't have electricity, so I'll need that for light and for any growing done in there. The whole back portion of the shed, not seen from the driveway will be a potting bench and shelves.
The area of the garden now open for this project. It's 14'x32'. I'll incorporate and add on to the checkerboard pattern of grass and pavers. Along the edges will be perennials. Along the side facing the driveway, the Harry Potter garden will go back in. On the inside, there will be a wall for hanging tools, shelving, and benches for potting and even growing some early spring plants.
This useless door in the attic will become
the "back" door of the shed. It's insanely narrow.

This window is coming out of the house (it's practically falling apart anyway)
and will be the feature window on the front of the shed.
This 15-pane glass door has been sitting in the garage for 14 years. FINALLY I'll get it out of there. Those bi-fold door shutters to the left may become the planter box on the driveway side of the shed.
This attic window is coming out. It's useless. We've seen snow come in it. On blustery days it'll even pop open. It's getting replaced and will be used on the front of the shed.
This is a bonus window that's been sitting in the attic since we moved in.
It'll get used someplace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's beddy-bye time

The leaves are raked, chopped and composting or laid in beds. The grasses are cut. The furniture is put away. The pots are in the garage. The tubers are in storage. The burning bush is burning. Time to say goodnight to the garden for the winter.

Having had a spectacularly decent and long Fall, we're ready for winter to finally hit this week – with temperatures in the mid to high 30s, and even possibly a little snow.

Now that I see this picture at the top though, I see that I still have to pull the annuals out of the upper window box. I usually put any extra pine boughs in the box when we get our Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Potting Shed Plans

So this is what I'm thinking. I not only want a potting shed, we need one. Our garage is getting just too crowded over the winter. The car barely fits in there. There's just room enough to get in and out of the car. Outdoor furniture, overwintering large planters, tools, planting supplies, bags of mulch, fertilizer and more, a table saw, bikes, scrap lumber and much more all find the garage for their winter vacation.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Out with the old, in with new garden space...

So I tried to give away the jungle gym/swing set – first to the neighbors on the block club email list. One neighbor stopped by to check it out, but it was too big, and too big a task for them to take it apart and reassemble it. Little did I know how right they were.

It was a nice dry Fall day. Perfect for leaf chopping.
I spread compost from the composter and refiled it
with chopped leaves. plus dressed most beds
with chopped leaves too.
Then I tried Facebook. A couple people took interest, but no takers there. It is old. And it would be a lot of work to carefully disassemble and reassemble elsewhere.

So it was up to me to do the tear-down. And I vastly underestimated how much work it would be. I tried to save as much lumber for future projects as I could. The whole thing was put together with screws. Rusty, stripped screws that had been there for the 13 years we've been in the house – in  addition to how many years it was here before us – probably another ten or more.

After futzing for a bout an hour-and-a-half with trying to unscrew the thing, and only getting about a dozen screws out (of hundreds), I decided it would be much faster with the chainsaw. And it was. I still tried to save as much wood as possible – it's mostly 2"x6" planks of pressure-treated wood, with a few 4"x4"s and 2"x4"s thrown in. But with a chainsaw and circular saw, I had the thing down in just a few hours.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A spooktacular garden visit

I saw this garden over the summer and have been waiting until today to post about it. It was a phenomenal garden (to me, anyway) in that it was so large that there were many areas of interest.

It had a verdant front garden putting other suburban foundation-hugging shrubs to shame; an envious back patio brimming with creative ideas; a comfortable, woodsy area (fire pit and a dozen or more Adirondack chairs); some super-creative oddball ideas that look like they came from a Pinterest post (moss covered picnic table anyone?); and some just whimsical ideas – like this semi-cemetery of crosses, gargoyles, and hostas.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Notable, quotable, garden wisdom

Being the marketing guy I am, I designed these social-media-friendly mini Garden Walk Buffalo poster .jpgs for the Garden Walk Facebook page. I post them on Facebook with the simple message to "Please share..." They are among the most liked and shared items on the GW Facebook page, reaching thousands.

Each one is about a 15-minute investment of my time, and employing either my own photos or those of photographer Don Zinteck, of Photographics 2/1045 Elmwood Avenue Gallery for the Arts, who generously lets Garden Walk Buffalo use his images – as long as they are ONLY used for promotion of Garden Walk Buffalo.

Some of the quotes are from general gardening wisdom that I cannot find any one person to attribute them to. Others are by well-known thought-provokers, like L.M. Montgomery, Dorothy Parker, and Sir Walter Scott.

The Maya Angelou quote was posted the week she died as a commemoration. Others are by people in the gardening world, like writer Mac Griswold – my favorite garden quote of all time – "Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts."

And a couple are wisdoms from people I know, collected from conversations, like Kathy Guest Shadrack and the poetic Trudy Stern (Friends of the Japanese Garden of Buffalo). They're both gardeners, and writers, that are doing significant things within the Buffalo Niagara horticultural world.

Enjoy. And please share!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Beautiful bird, bat, and butterfly abodes

On the National Garden Festival's Open Gardens, I visited a garden on their "Niagara Trail" list of gardens in Lockport, NY. Turns out I had visited "The Kurbs" garden years ago. It's quite an impressive size - two acres – within the city of Lockport. In the past 23+ years teh owners have transformed the once overgrown property to a park-like setting with water features hundreds of perennials and a collection of 20-plus Japanese maples and 50+ hydrangeas.

But what I'm focusing on here is the collection of bird, bat, and butterfly houses. The owner's been collecting them for years and has an impressive collection. He buys them, not makes them, though each is a handcrafted, rustic, weathered, original unique piece of art.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

You're not the moss of me

Seen on the National Garden Festival's Open Gardens tour this past summer in Niagara County– a moss-covered picnic table. Not sure I'd do something like this myself, but it was quite the display. Kinda' cool and kinda' odd. The odd part was the glass terrarium – it contained figurines of cats with wings. Not sure what that was all about, maybe entertainment for the grand kids or something. But what a great idea for an old unused table.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Setting the bar

This past weekend was another project in the "garden" that has been gnawing at me for years. I built the diamond-patterned slate tile counter tops around my grill years ago (seen below, left) and, not having an engineering degree, and with only weekend carpentry skills, the one L-shaped counter was very wiggly and jiggly. Drinks were in peril had anyone accidentally hip checked the bar.
For the longest time I've wanted to shore up the base of it with deck planks, also providing a bit of cover for that area of the deck and adding a little bit of storage there too.

Now the bar is so solid, you could dance on it. If you shake it, the entire arbor shakes (only slightly) too.

The top of the bar has a hole cut in it. Normally I keep a pot of basil there. It being next to the grill – it is easy to add basil to whatever is being grilled. But for parties I switch out the basil pot for a an empty pot used as an ice bucket.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A bit of the east out west in Portland

On our trip to Portland, the number one thing on my list to see was its famous Japanese Garden. I've seen photos of it for years, and was teased by the many posts by Garden Blogger Fling attendees from their trip there this past June.
We opted to walk up the hill to the garden.
There is a tram for those not so inclined.

My own garden is a mish-mash of garden design projects - more a laboratory for sometimes misguided and trendy garden ideas gathered from trips and travels. Japanese gardens are the opposite of that – havens of tranquility derived through human-scaled plantings, stone, and water mimicking nature, bringing a sense of peace and harmony. No one's ever used any of those words to describe my garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963. It is 5.5 acres with five distinct gardens, featuring a Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, walkways, rest areas, a gallery space, and ubiquitous gift shop. It has been called, "...the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan." I'm sure other Japanese gardens throughout the world probably make that claim as well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekend Work Five: My Garden Space of Shame

Every gardener has an area of their garden that provides shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and guilt, right? (Tell me it's not just me!)

I remember bravely posted about her garden space area of shame years ago. I couldn't find it in the archives of her blog, perhaps it was too overwhelming a source of shame she "unposted" it.

My Space of Shame is behind my garage. It's a narrow space of about three feet between garage and fence. I've tried pulling, poisons, and plastic to keep the weeds down back there. I (and garden visitors) cannot see back there, so it tends to get not tended. And it gets out of control.

Nasty knotweed is pretty well established back there (you can see it mocking me in the back of the photo above), there's wall-crawling (and paint peeling) English ivy, some vining wild-grape-looking thing, as well as dozens of other weeds. Any fix we make is only temporary.

The area of mess and shame has extended to the area between my deck and the fence (right). This area can only be seen if we pull out the picnic table and you're sitting on that side of the table.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Weekend Work Four: It's the Little Things

Another minor project (below) was scraping off some of the moss growing under the playset and adding it to some of the hypertufa planters I made.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weekend Work Three: Hellstrip Happenings

The most time-consuming project over the weekend was the paver stone landing pad in the hellstrip (below). The hellstrip has been slowly transformed from a weedy patch of compact abused soil to something that needs less maintenance.

I stopped using the lawn mower years ago. Now with this small area replaced with brick, there's only a couple other spots in the garden that require weed-whacking maintenance. And that little bit of remaining grass may all go away next year, as I start Phase 4 of the "taking of the hellstrip."

The brick pad is ostensibly a resting place for our garbage and recycling bins which will sit there one day a week. The paver stones came from the area of our patio that came out to create the marble and granite scrap area rug.

I'll be wetting and sweeping sand into it for the next week or so. Nearly every neighbor going by with dogs, groceries, yoga mats, and bicycles stops to chat. Working in the front yard, I have to estimate the time it takes and then multiply by three.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekend Work Two: The Anniversary Present.

As a 25th anniversary present, my wife bought me plants (she knows me too well). They are to replace the gangly and in-constant-need-of trimming white-flowering ninebark that hid our air conditioner (and intruded over into our neighbor's porch if we didn't maintain it).

We bought a Redvein Enkianthus "Red Bells" for its columnar habit, red stems, and height of 6-8'. It also has creamy yellow flowers veined in red in summer and brilliant red leaves in the fall, and berries in between. The other plant, for in front of the Redvein, is a Lacecap Hydrangea in a pale pink with reddish veining. I'm proud of myself for actually planting them according to their suggested mature plant size. I have a habit of planting things too close.

My wife's always hated that ninebark shrub, we never liked the white flowers, and she's wanted it replaced for a while, hence the anniversary gift. (I know her too well).

She gets her way and I get new plants. It's a system we've developed over 25 years. We both win.


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