Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Garden 2012

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Soon after we bought the house, we noticed that our neighbor’s retaining wall was easing its way into the south side of our lot. We hired my cousin and his crew to dry-lay a wall in front of the retaining wall and turn it into a garden. We did this even before we put a new roof on. I know that because I see our old shingles (and, I suppose, our old kitchen porch) in the second photo.

Then we ignored it for four years while we worked on other, more urgent things.

Earlier this spring, I told Don that my goal for this summer was to get rid of the ivy in the north beds. Meanwhile, he was interviewing our neighborhood Master Gardeners about lasagna mulching and the high quality of compost available from Fayetteville.We started by layering the compost and newspapers (or cardboard) in the front yard by the front walk last fall or winter.

Next thing I knew, we were removing ivy from the north beds and the south beds, laying rock borders, and cleaning up the wall garden. We (Don) sheet mulched the various beds with six pickup loads of compost, and I don’t know how much mulch. It was a challenge to keep up with him – I hadn’t thought that far ahead about what I wanted to plant in all these new beds.

Ta-da! This is only about half the rock wall garden, but it’s what photographed well. The plan, so far as there is one, is to have yellows and oranges in this garden. E.g., yarrow and shasta daisies in the first frame. Also poinsettias I felt sorry for. Three yellow brugmansia and pink swamp milkweed from our same master gardeners are in there somewhere. Jerusalem artichokes and regular artichokes in the third frame, behind some fleabane.

Further west, I have sweet potatoes and columbine and creeping phlox. And in the shady part past our rock patio, I planted 3 dozen ramps, 3 ostrich ferns, and one wild ginger. (I did plant some horseradish, but it seems not to have done a thing.) The ramps sprouted up, and have now receded, as I gather is their wont. I also have volunteer ferns and succulents in the rock wall crevices. Some perilla has shown up, too. I’m leaving it for now while I see how I like it.

However, the neighbors have ivy and Virginia creeper as groundcover, which keep creeping over their retaining wall and into my garden. And wild grape, too. I’ve gone into their yard (with permission) and pulled it further from our boundary, but it’s going to be an ongoing challenge. As cool as I thought this statue and ivy was when we bought the place … I really don’t want to garden with just ivy. I want some diversity.

Share on Facebook

Construction loan status: closed!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I think. The banker came by yesterday, admired our progress, and later called Don to say the bank would convert our construction loan to a mortgage. No more $212 in fees every two months to extend the construction loan. Now, if we can get our certificate of occupancy before May so we can host a teachers’ lunch and a graduation and refinance with a fixed rate before the rates approach our adjustable rate (which is about 6%, and gets readjusted every five years)…

In other news, our front stairs are finished, but not finished. (Railings and balusters are in, but we still need to sand, oil and wax.) I hope to expand on this news one day soon, but for now, here’s a picture.

inspired by The New Old House (Taunton Press)

And I made a violet garden over the weekend. We have at least three species of violets in our yard, including a raspberry violet raspberry violet or Southern wood violet that I think is  Viola hirsutula (Southern wood violet) and your more common purple and white violets. My camera, for the most part, insisted on focusing on anything but the violets and on correcting for color, so these two photos are the best of a blurry collection. I was very excited about the raspberry violet, having never seen one before (except last year, in my garden), and also excited about keying it down via the American Violet Society’s online key. I dug up three V. hirsutula and a bunch of the others (which I am not as confident about what I keyed them down to, since one came back as a marsh violet that insists on a damp environment, but was thriving in a not-marshy environment) and moved them to the north side of our house, where I made a hasty border of drain tile, stones, and clay pavers, mulched with mulch we got from the city last year, and uncovered a broad stone path dividing the garden. I spent much of Saturday puttering and enjoying myself. The path (which used to connect to stairs leading to a side door in what is now our 1st floor bath) is wide enough for a comfy chair, and stays shady and cool until late in the afternoon. Yay for spring!

Share on Facebook

The fish fountain

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Last summer, we ran up to the Chicago ‘burbs to visit Don’s family. After we cashed out my La Grange bank account, we stopped at a water garden store to get some anti-algae stuff for the fountain my dad gave my mom for their anniversary. (It was getting gunky. The fountain, not the anniversary.) We did a little window shopping at the same time, which turned into real shopping when we saw a fountain that looked a lot like this.

two koi granite fountain

Only a lot cheaper. Hand-crafted by an Ohioan. And we had money burning a hole in my wallet. We ended up with the fountain, the pump, the box to put the pump in, and the lining for probably a third of this fountain. And we got a rough sketch of how to install it, and were told we should use Mexican cobbles and polyurethane them so they would look like they were always wet. We plan to install a round water feature with the fish in the middle of our front walk (and flush with the walk*), with a faux bridge and a dry stream bed leading off to the north (down the hill and around the side of the house). Today I’m thinking about planting grape hyacinth and violets in the dry stream bed. And maybe other blue flowers for later in the year.

*Or maybe raised. Depending on where the water main is. A raised water feature might eliminate the motivation for a bridge and dry stream, however.

Share on Facebook

Thinking about spring

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

We were iced in on Friday and snowed in today. Not nearly as much ice as last January, but six inches or so of snow on top of a sheet of ice. Enough that work and school were closed, but not so much that the internet was permanently closed. Naturally, my thoughts turned to spring. We have a cinder block wall between us and our neighbors to the north. When they built it, our neighbors intended to stucco and paint it yellow (like their house). Instead, they put their house on the market, leaving us a cinder block wall along our driveway.

Pecan tree and cinder block wall Neighbor's yellow stucco front

I don’t have a ‘good’ picture of the wall (or the neighbors’ house) since it is not photogenic and I am snowed in at the top of the Hill. And I haven’t replaced my broken camera card. The wall photo is from January a year ago, after the ice storm. It’s a monolithic wall, maybe a foot off our driveway at the nearest point. The neighbors’ house is from Fall 2007. It’s really a picture of our house, but theirs snuck in. The yellow would be brighter except that it’s picked up some dirt over time.


Last spring, Mother and I took a landscape design class from Renee Reed. She came out to look at my yard, and suggested that I could pick up an orange or similar color from the limestone foundation to paint the cinder block wall. (Since the house is built on a hill, a good bit of that side’s foundation is exposed.) It hadn’t occurred to me that we could paint the wall, but it is on our side of the property line and facing our house. At the time, orange seemed a bit extreme, but I’ve been getting used to the idea.

I should probably start with a base coat, and deal with dressing it up later. There’s a auto shop down on School Street that has a pinkish-reddish stucco that is close to the color I have in mind. I have a handful of paint chips that I’ll try matching sometime when I have a minute in daylight. I plan to plant fig trees to take advantage of the southern exposure, and am thinking about stenciling a view between or behind them.

I have been collecting pictures to help me remember what I want.

Terra Cotta GardenWeb Wall Painted Concrete Block Wall Mural

I can’t get previews from this site, but I like the garden view through a stone wall and the lion fountain. The sandstone wall might be a good match for our foundation. Or I could splurge and get the courtyard mural. Which I might never finish. Or hate. Not even sure if stencil paints will work outside. Maybe with a good sealer.

Here’s a stone wall stencil with foliage. With the right colors, it could look like our other foundation rock. (Another picture that I happened to have in inventory. This one was mostly to convey graphically all the electric meters we had.) I should probably stick with the sandstone wall stencil that you can’t see without clicking through. As you can almost see, our foundation is typically less random than this stencil.

Stone Wall Stencil Limestone foundation (also old electric mess)

I could stencil a French window with a view like this onto the wall, although Don seems to think this might be the snowstorm talking. Or I could make a lattice arch with a view since I am thinking about espaliering my figs. (Some other fence and gate options, including bamboo and twig.)

French Window with a View Lattice Arch

I could even put in some tropical plants while waiting for my real ones to grow. Or this lion fountain while waiting for a real fountain to grow.

Chinese Parlor Lemon Tree lion-fountain2

I guess I’ll wait until the snow melts, the ice thaws, and we get moved into the house before deciding.

Share on Facebook

Bottle Trees

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

While I get back in the habit of blogging, I am editing and publishing some of my backlog of posts that I have started but not finished. This one I started in early May, before my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It makes me feel a bit lighter and summery, in contrast to today’s December grey.

(Background: Bottle trees came from Africa, and are seen throughout the South. The bottles’ bright colors and reflective nature attract evil spirits, which are then trapped inside the bottles. I gather evil spirits are like Japanese beetles; they can’t remember where they came from.)

My collection of blue bottles is gradually growing, as is my collection of bottle tree links. Digging has recently moved, and Pam made a new tree for her new yard.  In her comments, Felder Rushing’s wonderful collection of bottle trees was posted, and from there, I found a flickr bottle tree group.  Now, I’m curious about Quigley’s Castle, Arkansas, which is near Eureka Springs and has fourteen bottle trees. I even have a couple of photos of my own from our travels.

Blue bottle tree, Eureka Springs, Arkansas Colorful Bottle Tree, Jackson, Mississippi

I have a dozen or so bigger Riesling and water bottles, and a half dozen Phillips milk of magnesia bottles in storage. Right now, I’m thinking about two bottle trees with LED lighting to flank my entry walk.  Or possibly a blue bottle ‘tiki-like’ torch in the side yard. With the redbud an ice storm casualty, the yard is full of possibilities.

ETA: While cleaning up my home email, I found that my mother sent me this excerpt from Gerald Klingaman in his plant of the week article back in January 2009. Bottle Trees Make Bold Statement: Culture is a funny thing that shapes the way we see and understand the world. Every ethnic group is unique but none exists in a vacuum, so icons from one tradition are continually crossing the cultural boundaries of one group to be reinterpreted by another. The more we become the true melting pot we claim to be, the more cross-cultural icons creep into everyday use. A lot of these cultural beliefs involve trees in one way or another.

Share on Facebook

Washington Elementary House Walk

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Our grade school is hosting its annual house walk. Proceeds go to the library, and mean that there will be no selling of cookie dough or the like for us although the Little One was a top seller of Girl Scout cookies in her Daisy troop this year – she really enjoyed it.

We are still not ready to be on it unless somebody wants to tour a house with no windows or indoor plumbing or lights.* We do have rough-in plumbing and more than a mile of wiring installed.

Like last year, we’re hosting a house – the Hunts’ house, which I think of as the Januarys’** new house (since they bought it when they moved out of our house in about 1960). We haven’t been inside, but we’ve been in their garden when it was on a garden tour last spring. It is very French (as you might expect, since they own French Metro Antiques), with a brick wall around it, and has two beautiful Montmorency cherries. The cherries are probably what started me thinking about permaculture/sustainable agriculture/joys of having fresh fruit in your own yard.

Little One and Montmorency Cherry Tree June 2008 Montmorency Cherries French Hand Pump Under the Cherry Tree   The brochure has photos of this year’s houses, and here’s the list:

  • Jack and Anne Butt 526 E. Lafayette
  • U of A Chancellor Dave and Jane Gearhart 523 North Razorback
  • Terry and Renee Hunt 432 North Washington
  • John and Jennifer Lewis 137 S. Kestrel
  • Philip and Jennifer Maynard 315 N. Washington
  • Raymond Niblock 601 North Highland
  • Jan and Stacey Sturner 1 West Mount Nord
  • Reception and Refreshments at French Metro Antiques 200 West Dickson

This is a great collection of houses, both old (the Hunts’ house is pre-Civil War) and new (the Chancellor’s house is about a year old), for a great cause, so buy a ticket and take a tour. Tickets are available at French Metro Antiques, or at any of the houses the day of the tour.

*Strangely, we do seem to give a lot of tours of our house. The neighborhood seems to believe that a house with no plumbing, little electricity, and fewer and fewer windows every day is an improvement over the five-flat of college students that it was. (We stopped by the house yesterday morning, and three four windows in the living room were gone. I thought we weren’t doing those windows until we moved in, but apparently the siding needs to be replaced there, too. Don says the bright side is that we will only have to rebuild three or four windows after we move in. I guess that’s true. I’ll feel better after he’s put back one of the 87 gazillion we’ve taken out and rebuilt. I think he will, too.)

**Tom January stopped by our house last week while Don was there. He remembers watching the big house fire from Washington, and not being able to go home. He said his parents bought the house from two sisters, presumably the Brown sisters. Don thought he was pleased with how the house was going. (He didn’t think to ask whether he had any pictures of the house.) I think he’s going to stop by with his wife soon. I’d enjoy meeting him.

Share on Facebook

Peace of Mind… The Sequel

Friday, July 11th, 2008

In addition to bad electric, we had some bad trees. We had three old oaks, probably as old as the house – maybe older.

tree3.JPG tree2.JPG tree1.JPG

I’m sure these were grand specimens at one time, but by the spring of 2008 they were just old – mostly trunks with a few large branches jutting out precariously over our neighbor’s belongings. I was afraid a spring storm would blow up and knock one of them into a neighbor’s house, or car, or cat, or child, or child holding a cat… you get the idea. So, we hired some tree guys to cut them down and haul them away. This is definitely NOT a good DYI project!

tree4.JPG tree9.JPG

They made quick work of it – a couple of days. I especially like this sequence.


I’m sure you can tell from the pictures that this work was done in the spring. We had a rough spring here in Arkansas. About two weeks after these trees were removed, a big storm took out several large trees in the neighborhood. Timing is everything!

As a sidebar, we found this little guy hugging a large stump.


One of the tree cutters thought it was a black widow. Lisa’s mom thought it wasn’t. Any ideas?

Share on Facebook

Another Tenant?

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

The Little One found this guy hanging out about three feet off the ground, in a large bush (or small tree thing), in front of the dining room window.

snake1.JPG snake2.JPG

Not being a native southerner (this is Don again), I mildly freaked out (the Little One just thought it was cool). I held it together enough to get the photos, then headed home to ask the native southerner I’m married to exactly what I had taken a picture of… apparently not poisonous, and I am apparently a snake weenie (which I already knew, and I freely admit). I haven’t seen it again.

Incidentally, that bush/tree thing is coming down! (ETA by Lisa: It’s a bush honeysuckle, an enthusiastic invasive.)

Share on Facebook

Preparing the soil for planting

Friday, March 7th, 2008

“In preparing the soil for planting, you will need several tools. Dynamite would be a beautiful thing to use, but it would have a tendency to get the dirt into the front-hall and track up the stairs.” Robert Benchley (1889-1945).

Like houses, it’s not a good idea to run about willy nilly re-furbishing old gardens. It’s better to at least give the garden a chance to show you what it can do already, so I’ve been trying to resist using Benchley’s dynamite until sometime next year. That said, I already have a new garden, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. (I also have several large, dead trees, including one strangled by ivy, that need to come down before they fall down.  Maybe later this spring.)

We’re just about through with building our native rock retaining wall. (What’s that? I haven’t shown you my new rock wall? That’s because it’s so massively amazing that I haven’t figured out how to present it. Like the Grand Canyon, pictures fail.) As the new wall is several feet in from the retaining wall that runs along our property line, I have some new garden space emerging between the two walls. I’m thinking about focusing on native plants. One of the books I got from the library when my car exercised its magnetic attraction for accidents was Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy. I also checked out Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens.

Tallamy’s thesis is that we need to use native plants to keep our native insects from dying off, right now. Too many insects refuse to eat alien plants, and when insects die, birds die … right on up the food chain or net or pyramid or whatever.  Armitage, on the other hand, identifies native plants with something to offer the gardener. Primarily a laundry list of good plants which happen to be natives, he identify their features, and gives a bit of plant etymology with each one. (And regular readers know how I love etymology.)

I’ve done some web surfing, and determined Arkansas is short on native plant sellers, but Missouri has a bunch. I’ve found one who will sell assortments, and found an assortment that I think will work for my new rock wall garden so as soon as the rock wall is done, I’ll order them.  (The rock wall has run into snow and rain issues, so it may take a while for our crew to finish it off.  It’s probably 98% right now.)

Share on Facebook

Fly swatter to go with our fly swatting chairs

Friday, February 1st, 2008

It’s Snow Day 2 here in NW Arkansas for the Little One.  I still have to work.  The Little One got to sleep in today — yesterday, we had her up and dressed before we learned school was canceled.  Naturally, my thoughts are turning to spring, or maybe summer, and the flies that go with the change of seasons.

I want a leather fly swatter. My dad and I spent a while last summer looking for a fly swatter of normal length. Actually, I just looked for any fly swatter. When I found one (or rather three) for a dollar, they turned out not to be as long as those of my childhood, so I think it made it hard for Daddy to compensate.

leather fly swatter

While I was in Lehman’s online catalog (long story short, I was looking for storm window numbers tacks), I came across this: It’s 20″ long, and $5.00. Maybe I’ll buy two: one for me and one for Daddy. It’ll go great with my fly-swatting chairs from the auction this fall.


Share on Facebook