Monday, December 15, 2014

Alzheimer's sucks. Gardens don't.


Binghamton NY, is New York State's fifth largest city, nestled on the Pennsylvania border, about an hour and a half south of Syracuse. It's half way between Buffalo and New York City. It's also where I grew up.

It also has a botanical garden. The Cutler Botanical Garden. It is cared for by the volunteers of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in the area, which is right next door.

I never even knew it was there. It was there when I was growing up, having been started as early as 1972 (I started only about ten years earlier than that). I lived just a few miles from it, up on a hill. I probably passed it by thousands of times in my first 17 years.

My mom moved into a small house just across the Chenango River from it – and I still never knew it was there. Well, now my mom has moved in right across the street from it, into an independent living senior apartment. I still might not have known if I had not read this post by Swimray of A Leafy Indulgence, an Alexandria VA garden blogger – also a native of the Binghamton area.

To get a break from too much time spent in her small apartment, my sister, brother-in-law and I walked over just to get some fresh air late in the summer. We sat at a table under a shade tree for quite a while catching up – and sharing our concerns for mom's health. You wouldn't think so, but we had a great time.

Now that I know it's there, I may be there quite often on visits to Binghamton. It's the perfect size for my mom to walk around. It's about all she can handle. There's enough paths to make it a little different each time we go around, but for someone with dementia/pre-alzheimers, we could go around twice in a row and it would all be new to her. I still would have to drive her there, as it is across a very busy commercial street. She'd never get across the street on her own, and would more than likely get confused once she crossed the street, or tried to get back to her place. We hope she never decides to go there on her own. We had her "retire" her car last year – she'd hit three stationary cars in the last two years – one of them being mine!

She enjoyed the garden immensely.  She remembered she grew some of the stuff that we saw when we walked through. But she tried remembering names. I told her that I can't remember the names of plants – and no one would expect her to either.

We didn't have much of a garden growing up. We took a stab at a vegetable garden for a few years. It was replaced by an above ground pool – which got MUCH more use.

My mom's summer cottage has a garden she planted, but was not able to do much with it this year. Members of her church did a lot of clean up and made it look respectable. But now that it's not summer, and she's not spending time there, I'm not sure she doesn't remember much of it, if at all.

At least come spring we'll be able to walk around the Cutler Garden and she can enjoy it.

Alzheimer's sucks. Gardens don't.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gardening in winter in Buffalo

I haven't posted in a while - there's not much to post about around the garden this time of year. Other than south of Buffalo getting anywhere between four and seven feet of snow (at my house we've had just six inches so far this season), there's not much to write home about.

Can you see it?
Above is the area I've laid out for the "Potter Potting Shed" I'll start it in the spring. Seeing how close it is to the fence on the far side, I will be altering the exterior a bit. I can still add shelving on the exterior back there for pots and stuff, but there won't be room for a potting bench. I may lay a course of stones back there for a path. The Harry Potter Garden will go back in on the left near the driveway, basically where it was before.

This winter I'll be hunting down salvaged and used parts from my own house and a local reuse/salvage store.

I have kept busy with meetings on garden things. Garden Walk Buffalo is taking on the responsibilities of the National Garden Festival. Garden Walk Buffalo, the two day tour will remain the same, but the group will also work with the volunteers of the National Garden Festival to make their bus and bike tours, garden art sale, educational events, Open Gardens throughout the area, public space makeovers successful (and profit-generating!). We'll also help the other 14-16 garden tours in the area promote themselves. And put on an art gallery exhibition of works created in gardens last summer. There's never a lack of things to do garden-wise in Buffalo, even in the winter. Just not all of it is in the garden.

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.

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.

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.
Before.
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 GardeningWhileIntoxicated.com 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.

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