Sunday, May 24, 2009


The weather appears to have stabilized enough to get some veggies into the ground. I have my planters and garden beds sorted, now it's on to soil prep. For the containers I'll mix, in equal parts give or take, peat moss-vermiculite-soil-sand. This mix will support new plants or seeds keeping them damp and protected as well as enabling new sprouts to push through the mix without using up too much energy.

For those on a budget you can always swap plants with friends or neighbors. For everyone looking to start or add to a garden there is always someone that needs a garden thinned which means extra plants. It could be a perfect excuse to meet a new neighbor or give a much needed hand to an older one. So green thumb your way through your address book and start asking. For those really new to the garden you'll be shocked at the cost of building even a two by five foot bed.

This pic shows chives growing from one befuddled looking planter on the stone step to the deck.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Many Pieces

I'm back after a very physical week. The new gardens are falling into place quite nicely and the sculpted stone patio I've been working on is nearing completion.

This week I also acquired about a dozen or so medium and large plants for the deck. Palm and grass type tropicals that were freebies left over from a house resale.
The sellers of the property moved out leaving many pieces of garden art along with the potted plants which I found unusual. That is until the new owner informed me the sellers were also dissolving their marriage.

Always sad to hear but to see the personal touches like plants and garden decor abandoned really punctuates the situation.

Today I have a pic of a neighboring property that raises horses.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

All Zen

I spent the day focused on the garden. It was peaceful with a light 'now and again' rain. Come to think of it that's probably why it was so quiet...everyone smarter than me was indoors.
On days like this you're able to really zone into the garden. From the Robins scratching at the soil, the rising drone of a passing bee even my own footsteps on the grass... all sounds become bigger than life.

Not meaning to get all Zen but if you're having a bad day or need time to reflect I recommend getting your hands dirty in a garden bed.

I'm down to just a few more chores on my garden list and then it's on to sculpting.

This pic shows a newly created plant bed alongside the deck.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bare Bones

Landscape season has definitely begun and the clock is ticking. Meaning it will all be over once again before you know it. In the meantime I'll make the best of it. I've missed a few days worth of posts and honestly it felt like it was more.

For the last several days I've been digging, building and planting non-stop. I set a timetable for myself to complete a certain number of garden tasks before the end of May which is the reason for the long days.

I did get a small rock garden/vegetable garden built using an assortment of containers and rocks which was one of those tasks. It's all very bare bones right now as all the containers are empty awaiting soil and some stable weather. Actually I did plant one. A client gave me some raspberry plants this week that I grouped together in a wooden half barrel.

Here's another wacky tree pic.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Peering Back

Recently I had sourced some building material on Craigslist for a landscape feature I have in mind. Upon arriving at the arranged address I found a large gated entrance flanked by stone columns and garden beds full of Periwinkle. As my truck wound up the long gravel driveway I couldn't help but notice wild and fantastic pieces of art peering back at me from every nook and cranny.

I finally came to a stop at a clearing near a log home. In the distance I could see an open air workshop with an individual illuminated only by a shower of welding sparks. He stopped what he was doing, approached and introduced himself as the person I had spoken with earlier.

I got the impression he was a bit of a outsider type. I have to admit I liked him immediately. I soon learned that he and his wife lived in this hand crafted home on almost two acres of sculpted landscape. He was long retired and now simply created whatever his imagination and sometimes the scrap heap dictated. Even his house exterior was adorned with creations manipulated from off-cuts and discards.

There were rock carvings married to tree trunks, wind chimes cobbled from rusty car parts and bird feeders coaxed from knotted pieces of driftwood. And the whole property was dotted with natural stone staircases, patios and water features. It was a mirror reflection of his undefinable character.

Though I did get the impression he was not too keen on strangers so I was surprised that he invited me in for coffee and a tour of his home. Inside was just as interesting as the outside. Exposed beam ceilings, natural stone floors and solid slab doors were just some of features I tried to take in on my short visit.

Some two hours after arriving I was loaded up and making my way out through that same heavy black gate. And as it closed automatically behind me I pondered what are the odds of meeting someone that interesting again any time soon.

This pic shows three twenty foot totems that were poised over my parked truck.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Full Circle

Sunday was Mothers day and I wanted to share a story. About three weeks ago I did the road trip in search of retailers that might be interested in selling some of my work. One stop I made was in Toronto where I mis-spent much of my youth.

I went into the office of this particular business and recognized the names of the owners. It was the same family owned nursery that I went into around 1965 to buy my first Mothers Day gift which also happened to be my very first plant purchase. I was around five years old and our home was just around the corner . This nursery had now grown from a single room roadside shack, with a ten cent coke machine, into a muti-million dollar enterprise.

That day I bought my mother a tiny forty cent potted plant with my savings. All under the watchful eye of my father. I can still remember carrying it all the way both hands. It had two variegated leaves but can now only guess as to what it was. My mother absolutely loved it and sat it on a little saucer then arranged it perfectly on the kitchen window sill just above the sink.

Though I didn't make a sale that day the lady in the office did melt into a big smile when I told her the story.
I named my landscape company after that street I grew up on. Life really does go full circle.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I can appreciate that everyone wants to make a buck. But I have little patience for the lawn aeration companies that go door to door pushing their service.
Lawn aeration is basically the punching of holes through the top couple of inches of your lawn/soil surface. The theory being it lets water and oxygen reach the roots...a good thing.
The machine they use to punch the holes is in many cases a gasoline powered rental with no noise or emission requirements...not a good thing. The tines on the machine are more than likely contaminated with weed seeds and various insect larvae that have been picked up along the way from every other house visited...a bad thing.

By allowing this machine to run over your lawn you could be playing host to a new generation of weeds and insect pests for years to come...a really bad thing.

Alternatively you could purchase a bucket of Red Wiggler worms and free them on your lawn. They aerate naturally and their castings condition the soil organically. It's also more efficient and cheaper.

This pic is from an ad I found. It read something along the lines of... Tree for sale...I'm selling it because I don't know much about trees. "Hmmm."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big Weed

Today I made my first trip to the recycle center. Once I begin pruning and clearing out garden beds I'm left with a huge amount of cuttings and such. Not to mention the shrubs that didn't survive the winter. Today I had nine large bags of leaves and brush and half a truck bed of branches and cuttings.

There is a lot more to do but I try to work in sequence. I wait to pull all the new dandelions from my lawn until a few days of rain softens the ground. I also wait to cut my lawn until after the big weed pull.

Some neighbors started cutting two weeks ago which means they probably sliced and diced all those new weeds and broadcast their remnants across their lawns. If you take the time to pop out dandelions in the early days the re-occurrence rate is drastically reduced. Otherwise it's like the gift that keeps giving...all summer.

Not a good thing unless you don't mind waking every morning to hoards of people from the old country bent over your front lawn picking dandelions for tea. But then again you can always call me. I can't do much for the zillions of new dandelions but I can haul away all those people in my truck and leave them in the woods for you.

In tomorrow's post I go Neanderthal on lawn aeration companies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ready Aim Garlic

I started growing roses (Climbing Blaze) a few years back and now have a well sized root. Each year there's a show of beautiful bright red blooms during the summer months.

But for the last two growing seasons I've watched the leaves being chewed up by aphids. This year I plan to fight back...with garlic.

I'll plant a few cloves around the base. It apparently repels aphids...who knew? Now hopefully the Goose won't take a liking to the garlic.

Here's a pic of a Blaze flower.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Magic Or Miracle

Every industry has its share of Witch doctors and the garden industry is no exception. Corporations are relying on the fact that consumers are uninformed or desperate. How else can you explain the myriad of enticing new garden products each Spring that have the words Easy, Magic or Miracle in the name?

For example a couple of weeks ago I saw a grass seed product advertised that grew grass on a concrete block. But like all these too good to be true products its claims were built on half truths. This particular product had a food source mixed in with the seed. So it probably would grow anywhere...for the short term.

The fact remains that grass feeds by drawing nutrients from the soil. Which means once these seeds germinate and deplete their 'encapsulated' growing medium they will starve no matter where they are placed.
I make this assumption based on the fact that anyone buying this product is planning to place it over a problem area that didn't support grass growth to begin with. The underlying problem has to be identified and corrected before any new seed or sod is factored in. There is no magic bullet.

But once the problem is corrected you can simply cut a patch from a less obvious area of your lawn and press it into place. Grass is easy to grow anywhere once the conditions are right. And impossible to grow if conditions are not.

Today I've included a pic of a carved wooden column that is mounted in one of my garden beds. I began training a Golden Euonymous to climb it three years ago. It's now grown to forty inches in height.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rock Skip

This past Saturday saw us at another show. I had heard about it only two or three days prior and got in touch with the organizer immediately. This particular show took place in an old neighborhood of mine...Port Credit. A neighborhood that I would move back to in a second if given the chance. Many good memories. So this was a perfect excuse to hang for the day and reminisce.

Back then my apartment was a rock skip from Lake Ontario. And within biking distance of Port Credit Marina where I did bike to many a morning for an over easy breakfast at a small lakeside cafe. Followed by a Latte back on my balcony with Cocoa, the Cocoa Bean...the sweetest tabby cat to have ever lived.
So anyways the show, while small, turned out well. And once again we made some new friends which is always a bonus.
This pic shows the container garden on our deck.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Funky Squirrel

It's been raining steadily for about two days now. The yard is starting to come to life with masses of budding trees and shrubs. The Iris and Hosta's are also starting to poke through.
And the bird activity is phenomenal. So last night I dropped into Wild Birds Unlimited. It's a shop specializing in everything to do with birds in addition to selling work from local artisans which is a nice departure from the typical model of a corporate franchise.
So even though I went in to check out their very funky squirrel feeders and bird houses I came out with a tentative meeting date to show one of my Booga heads. Life is so cool.

This pic is another one of many shots I took while exploring the Japanese Gardens in Springfield Missouri.