Tag Archives: gardening

Planning a new garden


According to the character in the Robert Frost poem, “good fences make good neighbors.” We’ll see. I think my neighbor is putting up a fence primarily so he wont’ see my recycling container any more, although he claims it’s just so his girlfriend will have something for roses to climb on.

Sure.

Anyway, the fence will create all kinds of minor inconveniences, since there will be only about 3 feet between it and my house on the east side, so painting or doing any other home maintenance will be more of a challenge.

It will also constrict access to my back yard. One of two gates in my fence is right next to the house there, and in a rock area next to the house, four fairly good-sized clumps of hostas are growing. The hostas will have to go, as the fence will force us to use the rocky area as a walkway. I’m OK with that, however, as I have some bare and shady garden space in back which should be good hosta habitat as long as the ubiquitous bunnies let them grow (the darn rabbits are the reason there is any bare room in any of my gardens it the first place).

There is also a very narrow (from 6 inches to maybe a little over 1-foot) strip of yard between a rock wall edging my driveway and the fence. It will be impossible to mow the grass in that strip due to its narrowness.

So, I have to plan a new garden. There’s a sliver lining to any cloud.

The area between the fence and the rock walkway next to the house will be very narrow and will get mid-day sun, but only briefly. Since hostas have done so well in that area already, I’m planning on lily of the valley and columbine—does anybody know where to to get pink lily of the valley?

The north end of the garden will get more light. Next to the house, I should have some shade-tolerant plants, so one of the clumps of hostas I have to remove maybe won’t move very far.

I am planning on maybe putting in one or two trellises for morning glories, the only annual plant I want to put in this area.

Anybody have suggestions for part-sun perennials for this garden? I don’t want to do any bushes, even small ones, because I want only plants that will die down to the ground each fall—the location of this garden means I will need the area for piling snow in the winter. While I know annuals can be fun, I’m partial to perennials because I love the plant them once and leave then alone approach to gardening.

Others notes:

• I like cone flowers, but have a number of the “usual” garden ones already. If anybody knows where the native yellow, or other unusual colors might be available, I would be interested—but I won’t do a lot of cone flowers. I don’t like the green ones, by the way.
• I may avoid peonies. I like them, but I have then elsewhere. However, I might consider the “narrow leaf” ones, I think they might be called “Chinese” peonies? Don’t have any of those right now, just the “usual” ones.
• I won’t do any black-eyed-susans, not because I dislike them, but because I’ve got plenty of them elsewhere.
• A few hollyhocks may go at the far north end (the sunniest spot) of this garden. I have hollyhocks in back, but they are black. They look kind of cool, but I would like a few pink and white ones somewhere, and this may be the spot.
• I’m sure I’ll do some bulbs this fall—tulips and crocuses and daffodils, for example. I may also try a few irises, but irises are a personal heart-breaker for me—a plant I can apparently easily grow, but can’t get to bloom. I have all kinds of green daggers sticking up all over my gardens with no darn irises on them. Did a witch cast an anti-Iris spell when she cast the no-food-bearing-plants spell on my garden? Hmm. Empirical evidence suggests it may be so.
• I’ll probably mix in a few native lilies. I have some ditch “tiger” lilies in spots where they don’t bloom (not enough sun in a few areas) so I may move those to this new garden.

Even with all these plans, I’ll have a little (although, honestly, only a little) room left. Ideas? I’m particularly interested in later season flowers–with the tulips, irises (maybe), lilies and hollyhocks, I’ll have summer taken care of …

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More on bicycles … And redbuds


I saw some tweets today from a guy at a baseball game.  Baseball never really had much of a chance with me.  My father made a half-hearted attempt to interest me in it—hung a tire in the back yard as a pitching target for me, took me to a ballgame in Clinton, Iowa’s stadium (site, by the way, of my one junior high football game, but that will be another entry).  Anyway, I don’t think he was a huge baseball fan himself, he didn’t push the game too hard and I never got caught up in it.

There weren’t that many passions we shared.  Maybe bicycling came closest.  When he had to move to Iowa several months before the family did in 1966, he bought a red Schwinn 1-speed and used it to commute until the family drove the VW van across country.  When we all got to Clinton, he presented the bike to me.

His personal bike, purchased several years before, was then a rather exotic type, a light yellow English 10-speed with the droop handlebars.  He had used that bicycle to commute in California.

We didn’t bike a lot together, but one time he took me with him on a short jaunt out into the countryside.  That was a magical Saturday for me.  We didn’t really do anything all that special, but I was still a California kid and we stopped and went for a short stroll in a corn field.  It must have been late summer because I remember the corn being taller than he was, and he was 5 11.  (The bike ride must have been about 2 years after we moved—we were already living on Seventh Avenue rather than the rental on Third Avenue, and I was big enough for a several-mile bike ride, which meant I wasn’t 8 anymore like I was when we moved from California.  Still, I distinctly remember the bike ride as being one of my first “close encounters’ with corn, and I think it was one of his reasons for taking the ride with me—perhaps I had said something which let him know, Ohio farm boy that he had been at one time, it was time to show the son some crops.)

Anyway, he wasn’t riding his 10-speed anymore by the time I bought my Continental in 1974.  Not too much of a surprise, I suppose—he was in his mid 50s by then (although I’m 50 now and probably biking as much or more than I every did).

The red Schwinn was a trusty companion until I replaced it.  Compared to it, the Continental was light, speedy and better for longer trips—some high school friends and I would sometimes cross the Mississippi on the Norbert F. Beckey bridge to ride 15 miles or so to a park on Lake George where one could rent canoes.  Cars paid 50 cents on the bridge, but a bike could cross for a quarter.

So it was rather sad when the Continental met what is probably its final fate just a few days ago.  As I’ve blogged before, I started riding that bike again when my regular commuting bike had to be taken to the shop.  One Thursday recently I was on the way home when the back brake suddenly stopped functioning.  I managed to safely come to a halt, and discovered that the cross piece holding the brake between two prongs of the frame had completely snapped away.

Just glad it happened on F Avenue on a flat stretch.  It could have snapped while I was headed down the Mount Mercy hill.

The Trek is back, so on good days I’m on two wheels again.  And it is nice to have my “wiked witch of the west” basket in front for my briefcase.

But I do feel a little wistful about the Continental.  I think my father’s 1960s 10 speed was probably a fancier bike—I remember it as being lighter than the Continental, and it had the harder, narrower seat of a more serious biker.  The Continental, however, looked a little bit like a blue version of my father’s bike.

Unrelated aside—I blogged before about redbuds.  I happened to be listening to “horticulture day” on Iowa Public Radio this week, and the subject of redbuds came up—someone was calling about a redbud whose top had died.  Turns out to be a common thing in Iowa—we’re really just north of redbud’s natural range, and it’s luck of the draw whether any individual tree might weather an Iowa winter.  In fact, one of the two younger redbuds in our yard is pulling a “Mama” this spring—it’s top is dead, but it’s starting to bud out at the base.

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