Thursday, January 28, 2016

My garden is in the Bible. The Garden Bible, that is...

 I made it into the Bible, you know, the good book, The Garden Bible, Designing your perfect outdoor space. Friend (and friend to Buffalo and its Garden Walk) Barbara Ballinger has written the garden bible and Buffalo is well represented. Even a little corner of my garden was snuck in there. 

She (and I) have been waiting patiently for its publication and release. I asked her id it was like giving birth – and she said it was worse! 

Where ever a Buffalo garden is featured, Garden Walk Buffalo got a nice mention. Photos from Buffalo were shot by either photographer Don Zinteck, or myself.

It's a 224-page hardcover book with glorious and generously sized photos throughout. There's plenty here for the beginner – and the pro – with design tips and lots of inspiration (20 case studies!). They're chapters on understanding your site and climate, developing a budget, hiring professionals, finding a style, design principles, recognizing problems – and a whole section on garden tours that features Garden Walk Buffalo prominently.

Currently it's available on Amazon, but it will be seeping out to bookstores in the coming weeks and months.

I have not started to read the book yet - just got it and haven't had the time, but I can't wait to sink my eyes into it. Barbara has edited multiple garden and real estate magazines over the years and has much experience with gardens, garden touring, and garden writing. We'll be trying to get her here for a talk this summer. She's been here before for Garden Walk Buffalo and is one of our greatest advocates.  
A photo I took of my garden is in the lower left - my checkerboard garden, next to the raised bed potager garden surrounded by a dwarf apple tree espalier "fence." The two photos on the right hand side are also from my street – Lancaster Avenue. The upper left hand corner photo is from a garden a few blocks away, on Putnam Street. The photos, other than mine, are by Don Zinteck.

Buffalo's well-known Victorian garden, on Delevan Avenue, gets a three-quarters page spread beside a history of Garden Walk Buffalo and a list other garden tours around the country.
Phoebe's garden, a few blocks from my own, on Putnam Street,  gets a full page spread.
The large photo is one I shot of a house on Norwood Avenue here in Buffalo. The upper left photo I shot of a Richmond Avenue garden. The lower left is a Don Zinteck photo of a garden on Bidwell Parkway.
Another Don Zinteck photo of a garden on Delevan Avenue.

Friday, January 22, 2016

DIY garden bench, window boxes, and shutters for the garden shed

It's been a busy few weeks in the basement workshop. Not only did I make three window boxes from old louvered closet doors left over from a bathroom remodel, but I've made a garden bench from an old headboard we were going to throw out. And then I made some shutters for the garden shed's round-topped windows.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the garden, in December

Not much going on in December, in the garden, in Buffalo, chez Charlier. The only news here is that we've had the least snow so far this winter in recorded history. We've also broken the top recorded temperatures for almost every day this month.

In the photo above you get to see the bones of the diamond-shaped dwarf pear tree espalier. I have to do something about trimming the tops this spring. They get pretty massive and thick up there.

Since there's not much to say about gardening, I can show what's been happening around the yard and garden.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Potting shed details, details, details...

Le Châtelet de Charlier is progressing nicely, even though it's winter. Buffalo hasn't had any snow yet – and it looks like it'll be at least a week before there's even a chance of it.

This past weekend I built three flower boxes from old closet bi-fold doors taken out of the house in a bathroom remodel a few years ago.

I made a door handle from a hand rake that we never used. I made three more hanging solar lights from terracotta pots, moved a shelving unit in from the garage that was there when we moved in 14 years ago, and started making mullions for the windows that didn't have any. It was a very productive weekend!

My neighbor Steve was walking by (as neighbors do) and suggested that the upper diamond window get some mullions in it because the solid glass almost made it look like there was no glass there – this coming from the guy that told me not to waste time adding the slate tile foundation because it was making the shed too "precious"! He's had some valuable suggestions along the way and he's fun to talk to, so every time I add a clever detail, or something that requires extra effort, or have some design scheme in mind, we now refer to it as "precious."

If the weather holds out this weekend, I'll get a potting table structure started out there. I'm thinking to use the $500 gift certificate I won for the scrap marble and granite "carpet" creative competition a couple years ago and see how far that goes toward getting a "scratch and dent" piece of soapstone (thanks Roxanne for that idea!), or unfinished marble table top for it.

I'm getting a lot more done this fall than I thought I ever would.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A conifer collector's confection

I've been to a few "Collector's Gardens" – gardens of true plant-a-holics that collect non-run-of-the-mill plants. Mostly they've been garden writer friends or folks that work for nurseries that can more readily get their hands on unique plants, or hard-to-find cultivars of more common plants. In my experience, they're usually less "designed" and more of a hodge podge of plants (well-suited to their spots) that the owner gets excited about.

This plant collector's garden, just outside Toronto, blew me away.

The Marion Jarvie garden was more of a curio cabinet of a garden. Or it looked as if you were touring a botanical garden, condensed into a small suburban lot. The more, and closer, you looked–the more there was to see.

Mostly featuring dwarf conifers of every size, shape, and color, it also hosts wonderful trees, shrubs and even some perennials I'm sure came from other planets.

This was just one of the dozens of gardens toured as part of the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto this past June. More than 70 gardeners attended. It was difficult to get photos without other gardeners in them–crouching, stretching, and contorting to get their photos taken. I wouldn't want it any other way. You can learn a lot touring gardens with 70+ people smarter than you that can answer questions, make you look at things you wouldn't normally see, or even just ask great questions themselves.

Not much else I can say. You'll just have to appreciate the photos...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pot lights for the potting shed

I wanted some solar terracotta pot lights for the potting shed (the shed has no electricity). What potting shed should NOT have a plant pot light? Seemed simple enough. I went looking for something like this by Googling and searching on Pinterest, but came up empty.

So I went to my friendly local hardware store, bought the solar lights and pots. The hardware store folks were a great help in suggesting how best to drill terracotta, the exact "L" brackets that are bendy enough to adjust its angle, and suggested the neoprene (rubber) washers for the screws.

I think they came out pretty well. The lights are rather dim, but this was just the first night's photos. I don't think the lights got enough sun power before I put them up. Even if they are on the dim side, they still work well. Glad I painted the interior of the pot white.

At first I tried drilling the holes with wood drill bits. It worked, but it took about 45 minutes to drill two holes. I have a masonry drill bit now, and it was suggested that I add water as I drill and that may help things along. Then I just added the solar light on top with just a couple dabs of glue. Almost any glue would work. I had some glass/metal glue on hand and it works fine. UPDATE: The masonry drill bit worked wonders. Keeping the area wet, it drilled through with little effort. I drilled six holes in three pots in ten minutes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gardening on Instagram

I'm new to Instagram as of about four weeks ago. I like to jump on trends years after they begin. 

It's a very visual medium. I've been blogging here for nigh on nine years. The blog is writing and photos. Facebook is short blurbs and images and links. Pinterest is my visual "file folder" of things I find I like and can easily refer back to. Instagram's strength, in my opinion, is it makes a viewer focus on one image at a time. It's got plenty of garden porn for my visual pleasure. 

Through Instagram I am able to share the thousands upon thousands of garden photos I've taken over the years – from garden blogger meet-ups, trips abroad, garden tours locally and around the country, visits to botanical gardens, hikes, and my own garden and neighborhood. Some photos have been published on this blog, most have not. It's nice to have a venue for them – as opposed to sitting on a hard drive on my desk.

I'm still getting the hang of how it all works. Hashtags are new to me. Do people really use them? The interface on my desktop computer is lackluster and basic (and frustrating). The iPhone images seem so small at times, especially for complex photos. The iPad is just right.

If you're on Instagram, look me up, you can find me at jimcharlier.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I am Grout, the potting shed update


Almost ready for winter. I'm grouting the diamond-shaped slate tiles along the foundation this weekend. Then I just have to frame in a couple small windows.

Then, it's "winterized." Or, at least, the exterior is 90% finished. As long as these nice weekends hold, I may be able to get some work done inside – principally a potting bench and pegboard walls. Over the winter will be decorative elements – window boxes, lattice, an arbor, and a shelf under the window you see above, all built in the basement – the house basement. No, the potting shed doesn't have a basement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dragging-of-the-Plants Weekend

This was the annual Dragging-of-the-Plants Weekend (also known as the Scratching-of the-Floors Weekend). Shown are the before and afters of some of the rooms after the plunking down of potted plants. Their summer vacation outside is over.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Update on the mother-of-all-potting sheds

With only summer weekends to work on the shed (and some of those weekends lost to trips, vacation, family visits, and weather), much progress was made this summer on the Harry Potting Shed.

Mid September 2014, just an idea.
Before the snow flies, there's still plenty to be done – adding a foundation of slate tiles, fully enclosing the bay window side panes with glass, and getting a lock for the door. Those are on the mandatory list. Anything else I can get done – that the weather allows – is a bonus.

If I can get the slate tile foundation done in the next couple weekends, there may still be time to transfer the Harry Potter Garden plants back into their spots along the driveway side of the shed (on the left in these photos). If the weather holds out a bit, it'll give them a good head start on spring growth, as opposed to transplanting them in the spring.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

This is less of a garden post than the title implies, but Garden of the Gods is the actual name of a Natural National Landmark park just outside of Colorado Springs, CO. The park features 300' red sandstone rock formations against the backdrop of Pike's Peak. And they are quite impressive.

There are nearly 17 miles of hiking trails - from short, easy paved paths to longer nature trails to be taken. The greatest threat to the native plant life in the area is the crowds of visitors (1.7 million) that visit each year - and keeping them on trails, as opposed to trampling plants and compacting soils when visitors leave defined paths. Add in natural erosion, and inadequately managed water runoff to the human impact and you have a recipe for degrading parts of the park severely over time.

It is more lushly planted than compared to the late 1800s. Planting of non-native Rocky Mountain juniper, Ponderosa pine, and white fir. As flammable as these particular trees are, the absence of forest fires, due to human fire suppression measures, has also contributed to its lushness.

There are invasive plants to worry about too. There are crowding ones like New Mexican Locust and Siberian Elm taking up valuable space and competing for nutrients with natives. And there's noxious weeds like Leafy spurge. field staff are also trained to look out for weeds that are invasive in other parts of the state - but are not yet found in the park – like Yellow Start thistle and Purple loosestife.

We didn't spend a lot of time there, we just walked around the paved path in the more popular walking areas (staying on the paths!). It's a stunning park. If you're ever out towards Colorado Springs, it's worth a visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hanging Lake, Colorado


Just outside of Glenwood Springs, CO is a great hiking trail up into the mountains to Hanging Lake. When we got there very early in the morning, we debated on doing the hike because it was raining, alternating between very light to moderately. My wife wanted to continue on. The teenager was adamant about not wanting to. And I was on the fence. Having hiked it, and coming back drenched in rain and sweat, my daughter and I renamed it "Hanging Mom Lake."

It was a one-hour all uphill climb (about 1,000 feet), about 2.5 miles. But it was the Rockies, so it was dry air (except for that rain), and gorgeous scenery at every turn. The trail up zigzagged with a stream with many falls and pools the whole way. The hike was worth the effort - the turquoise colors of the lake are from carbonate minerals that dissolved in the water. The water is absolutely clear.

It was early morning,
so the fog was still lifting.
The lake gets its name from the the plants and mosses that hang over the falls' precipice, as well as the exposed roots of those plants. They are growing with both areoponics and hydroponics naturally.

Normally a very crowded trail, there were very few other hikers because of the weather. We climbed down, taking just under an hour and headed back for breakfast and a swim in the world's largest thermal pool – one immense pool at 98º and another large pool that is 104º year round.

That's how you end a hike!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My no-longer-horizontally-challenged fence


I finally had a horizontally-oriented fence built. I've been wanting one for quite a while. When you live in such an urban setting, on only a 60'x80' lot size (with a notch taken out of even that), and nine neighbors surrounding us, with six of those actually sharing the fence, fences are important.

Early on, the bamboo seemed like a good idea – blocking
neighboring views, and providing a pretty green backdrop.
The existing fence was a standard 6' picket, not painted or stained, so it's gray and slowly rotting in place. The fence we had installed is only the 30' section at the end of our driveway. Formerly we had bamboo planted there that was invading our neighbors behind us. They are very nice and asked us what we could do to get rid of the bamboo – knowing that it will never be gone completely. Never, NEVER, let bamboo touch the ground unless you own the surrounding acres. Plant in well-constructed unbreakable, invincible pots or troughs. Or line the area for many inches deep with corten steel (the roots don't go too deep).

The fence was falling apart, and the area between our two garages was so engulfed with Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), an old chain link fence, and a large stump, that we decided together to have someone come in and clean out between the two garages and build a new fence. Most fence companies don't do the clean-up portion of the job, nor the bamboo-be-gone digging that would be required. But we did find a contractor that could fit this in between jobs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toronto Island gardens

From Algonquin Island. Doesn't it look like something from a Wes Anderson film?
(Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, etc.)
I have lots of posts left to cover the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling from this past June. But I figure I've got all winter to post them, as there isn't much else to post once winter hits.

Each year there's an official Fling photo.
This was taken on Ward Island. Nice view, eh?
The Fling is a get-together of abound 75 garden bloggers (freelance writers, book authors, columnists, garden enthusiasts, and more). The one thing we do all have in common is blogging. Only folks with established garden blogs (and are currently posting) are encouraged to attend. It's not a garden tour for just anyone that likes touring gardens.

In the past they've met in Austin, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, and, this past year, Toronto. in 2016, we'll visit Minneapolis. I've attended Chicago, Asheville, Toronto – and helped organize the Buffalo fling.

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