Friday, April 29, 2011

Husbands and hedge trimmers

Rule No. 1. Don't allow your husband in the front yard with a hedge trimmer unsupervised.

The tragedy began when we returned home to find a note on the front door: Meter could not be read.

That would be the water meter, which is hidden by a dense hedge beside the driveway. Although the hedge looks to be mostly on our property, our neighbor has kindly trimmed it once or twice a year, a courtesy he likely began with the previous homeowner.

At the time of the meter reader's visit, the hedge had not experienced a spring trim and long tendrils bounced in the wind, giving the hedge a distinct Medusa-like flair. It never occurred to my husband to trim it, although I'd clipped it here and there, especially where it infringed on the small ice plant and phlox garden nearby.

But, when the meter reader left his damning note, it was time to charge up the battery and get our hedge trimmer roaring.

It was a hot day. Sticky for spring. My husband worked hard. I remained in the house doing laundry from our two-week trip north, prettying up our sun room and vacuuming the house.

I did not supervise the hedge trimming.

My husband came back in the house, tired and sweaty. "I opened it up real good," he said. "Did you trim our neighbor's side," I asked, meaning the long tendrils bouncing in the breeze. He shook his head no--but he'd get back to it tomorrow.

Now it's tomorrow. "I opened it all up," he said, smiling, face glistening with sweat.

Now it's the day after tomorrow. We're going to Costco. I walk outside. I see the hedge. You can drive a Volkswagen through it. My husband has hacked and whacked a four by four foot gap in the hedge--wide enough for a four hundred pound meter reader to dance the quick step.

That I could live with. But, he also "opened up" our neighbor's side, exposing the big, green metal box the hedge has successfully covered for many years--the reason people plant these hedges around big, green metal boxes.

My husband is oblivious to such aesthetics. And since he worked so hard, I don't have the heart to complain. This isn't a complaint. It's a comment.

I haven't yet heard my neighbor's comment, although she did smile at me as she backed her car out of the driveway this morning. That was before I saw the hedge. Now I'm wondering--was that a smile or a wince?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Peach buds by the dozen

My Bonfire Patio Peach is advertised as ornamental but the branches are lined with dozens of baby peaches. Last year, the first year in my garden, it had a few peaches and I tasted one, finding it edible.

I guess I'm supposed to cull most of those peach buds off to encourage larger fruit. I remember a plum tree in the backyard of a house we rented in western New York many years ago that blessed us with thousands of plums--each the size of a grape. I was less than an amateur fruit grower at the time. In fact, I was merely a renter with a plum tree in my backyard.

This little Bonfire, though, is quite lively and getting me excited about the warm, sweet, fragrant taste of sun-kissed peach on my tongue. Yes, I'm looking for a few good-sized fruit. Just a few will do from my little patio peach.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Lovely Lady Banks

Wilmington may be famous for azaleas (dogwoods, redbuds, cherry, peach, crab apple and apricot trees), but the Lady Banks rose is my absolute favorite springtime treat. Lushly laden with blooms, it showers an arbor or fence with more blossoms than one can possibly count.

Besides exploding with clusters of yellow (in my case) or white flowers, Lady Banks is thornless, a vigorous climber and not picky about soil types (although what rose doesn't enjoy a little organic matter now and then). It grows furiously and can quickly cover a rooftop.

In late winter my Lady looked like she'd been electrocuted. Branches grew up, down and sideways. One morning I grabbed clippers, scissors and a role of twine and tied that Lady down. Cutting away any branch that didn't grow left to right, I formed a thick dome across the top of an antique arbor, leaving short branches to grow up from the base. As you can see in the photos, right, Lady Banks truly is spectacular.

If you're ever in southern Arizona in April, stop by to see the world's largest rose--The Tombstone Rose--a white Lady Banks that covers 8,000 square feet. Now that's vigorous! And old--more than 100 years. The branches twisting up from its massive trunk are thicker than a wrestler's arm--way thicker. Check it out at

I suppose this could happen to any Lady Banks left to her own devices. Mine has gotten pretty shaggy in previous years. This year I intend to keep her neatly trimmed, a lovely welcome to my home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taking advantage of a glorious day

A beautiful day in the garden! After brunch and a walk on the beach, there was no reason to go inside, so I started a late winter cleanup of the front yard gardens.

Cut back last autumn's mammoth mums: new growth starting. Cleaned up the lilies (some already sprouting, others lush with leaves). Trimmed the prostrate juniper away from the sidewalk. Cut back my favorite pony tail grasses. Many babies are ready to fill in where some of the older ones expired.

On a roll, I decided to tackle the Lady Banks rose, which for the last year has looked like it had been electrocuted. Tied the branches down to the arbor and cut off the erratic ones shooting helter-skelter. My Lady is loaded with buds and will soon present a fabulous display.

Throughout the winter purple and yellow pansies have bloomed gloriously in the front porch window boxes--something that continues to thrill me here in Wilmington.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Daffodils near sunroom

After a pleasant walk around the neighborhood this morning, I checked the garden in front of my sunroom and Viola! Daffodils! Many of them, some just leaves, some with buds, popping up near the windows.

I call this my reverse garden. It's designed with the smaller plants near the windows and taller shrubs set farther back. The sunroom is floor to ceiling windows, so we can enjoy the flowers without having to get up and look out the windows. Very pretty.

Windows, windows, window. What would I do without them?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plants, trees need mulch this winter

I heard from a landscaper that plants will need a thick layer of mulch this winter. Our super hot, super dry summer caused the thin feeder roots to rise close to the surface searching for water and are therefore vulnerable to cold temps this winter.

I immediately went out a bought eight bags of cypress blend mulch and bedded down my river birch (planted this spring) and Japanese maple (planted last spring). Both are still vulnerable to cold and frost. I also mulched the two small dogwoods planted last May, the bridal wreath spirea and the native azalea, which is doing poorly.

My daylilies look well-nestled in the mulch, so I didn't add to it.

Ooops, just remembered. Forgot the weeping cherry! Will give it a good blanket of mulch today.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Propagating Mexican Bush Sage

I was planning to purchase more Mexican Bush Sage next spring but just discovered the plant is easy to propagate. Just break off some stalks, stick them in the ground and keep them wet. Not too complicated.

I like this plant because it blooms in mid-to-late September when most of my garden is burned out from too much sun and too little rain.

The sage blooming gloriously right now is the one I bought my first spring in North Carolina (2007). Three more planted in the front yard the following spring did not survive the winter, although I'm beginning to think I was impatient waiting for them to shoot up their second spring. I might have yanked three poky but healthy plants.

Hummingbirds and butterflies love Mexican Bush Sage, which is why I love it, too. And who can dismiss long, waving stems covered with soft, showy flowers? Best of all, the plant is drought tolerant! Amen.