Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Little Windstorm...

...and the world goes catawumpus.  Only 15 posts to get to use my favorite word.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bonsai Show

This past weekend, my lovely wife and I decided to pack up one of the two children, as the older was with his grandparents and head to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.  Nothing calms my nerves like stepping through the entrance of the gardens.  While I can spend quite a sum of blog space writing about this amazing place, I've decided it would be much better for everyone involved if I focused on one particular spot.  We spend a bit of time here, and I will have plenty of opportunity to write of all of the various gardens in the future.  Plus, as you are beginning to witness with the most recent post, I can be rather long winded.  I started talking about a tree, then gave instructions on eradicating a gopher, listed the proper cocktail to have, returned to the tree, then finished up with football scores.  For this particular post, I'll try and stay on task and only discuss the 53rd Annual Bonsai Show.

The show took place in Bonsai section of the Japanese Garden that is shown in the picture above.  The grounds also contain Chinese, Australian, Palm, Desert, children, herb and many other garden types.  The trees on display were, as one would expect, stunning.

Olive.  A far cry from ours.

Trained along a piece of driftwood.  I cannot begin to imagine the patience and vision it takes to create these stunning displays.  I can safely say, this is far beyond my attention span at this stage of my gardening journey.

This is actually two trees, the second being atop a pedestal just behind the front tree.

Luckily, we were blessed with beautiful weather of 85 F (29 C) during the day.  We're anticipating a storm this week and the temperature should drop about 25 degrees.  Monumental by California standards.  I may have to take a sick day.  Rain and 60 degrees?  I believe that's the first sign of the apocalypse.

On one last note, I couldn't help but jump to one tangent, we visited one of the libraries that was set up in one of the multitude of art galleries.  It was set just as the Huntington's had left it with floor to ceiling bookshelves and French antiques.  Of course, books are our second passion, my lovely wife is studying to be a librarian, so we bee lined to the stacks.  I was quite excited to actually find a series I owned!  Well, not the same exactly as I'm sure there's is older, nicer, more expensive, etc.  I had to snap one picture.

Unfortunately, the Canon Rebel T1i does not have a "shoot pictures of books through glass" setting.  Shocking, actually, as I'm sure this camera could not only make me a fantastic cup of coffee, but put a man on the moon as well.  I'm sure it was user ignorance.  Either way, you get my mug as part of the photo, as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Orange "Tree"

Sheila at The Gardens of Petersonville posted pictures of her orange blossoms as a celebration of the starting of spring.  Don't confuse hers with ours at the moment.  But, don't panic, we will catch up in due time.

Our Valencia Orange has started to awaken.  We are breathing a collective sigh of relief here at Castle Turling.  During the winter we were ravaged by a gopher.  I'm quite convinced it was the same gopher to star in Caddyshack.

caddyshack_gopher.jpg I have never had the best of luck with the various methods of gopher destruction.  I refuse to use poisons for what I hope are obvious reasons with the pictures of my two little one's already on the blog.

I have tried the traps, as well.  My father-in-law can catch anything with those gopher traps.  I'm chalking it up to his childhood on a farm in Ohio.  I place the traps and come out the next day to the trap being sprung without gopher, of course, but then being buried by said gopher as it filled the hole the trap was in.  I'm convinced it was mocking me and I half expected a little picture of the rodents favorite finger to be sitting in the sprung trap.

I then proceeded to use a third method, which will forever become my method of choice.  It is done as follows:

  1. Dig up a fresh hole until the tunnel is located.
  2. Stick hose into tunnel.
  3. Turn hose on.
  4. Return to the house and prepare a proper cocktail.  I had a gin and tonic for this particular one.
  5. Go to shed (see previous post) and grab pan head shovel.
  6. Get chair.
  7. Sit in chair with shovel drinking previously prepared cocktail.
  8. Wait for movement from a hole.
  9. When discovered LEAP from chair (be sure to be holding the shovel and not the cocktail as it is not effective in the slightest).
  10. In one motion bring shovel straight down on to creatures head.
This, thus far, is the only way I have been able to remove these creatures from my yard.  I am also assuming it is the most satisfying.

Now, back to the tree.  Before the above took place, the gopher had been dining on the roots of this tree for some time.  To the point where the majority of the leaves had fallen from the tree.  We were very concerned it was not going to make it.  We decided to give it another season, as it's less than a year old, to see how it did.  Luckily, as you can see from above, it has begun to sprout (grow? is sprout the correct terminology?).

It is not the most intimidating of trees, but it was the right price.  In this spot my son and I had erroneously removed a ficus.  We found this out when my lovely wife returned and informed us of our error.  We quickly drove to the local home improvement center (I'll give the name when they send me a check) and bought this to take its place.  As I said, it's been in the ground about nine months and using a rhyme I heard from P. Allen Smith, "sleep, creep and leap", this tree would be starting its creeping phase this year.  At least, that's the plan.

In the meantime, I'm going to remove the fruit as it begins to mature this year, so the tree can put its energy into growing.  Unless, of course, someone who knows more about these things then I do (keep in mind the Greenhorn portion of the blogs name) tells me this isn't a wise thing to do.

P.S.  Because it's my blog and I can technically write about whatever I want, I wanted to write about my beloved Tottenham Hotspur's victory of Portsmouth today, 2-0.  Further solidified into fourth place, now.  Keep your fingers crossed we can hold it through the last seven games.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tools of the Trade: The Shed

I think every gardener needs a garden shed.  This is ours.  I'm not sure how I got to this age of my life without one.  I've used outdoor cupboards, garages, outdoor name it, I've probably tried it.  But a walk in shed dedicated to nothing but gardening and all of the paraphernalia that seems to go along with it is a wonderful luxury to have.

I didn't build ours.  I wish I did.  This one was inherited from my father-in-law, the previous owner of our home.  Along with my mother-in-law, of course.  This shed is built on skids simply placed directly onto the ground.  I like the construction.  Don't overcomplicate things.  It's a garden shed, for crying out loud not a guest house.  Well, I guess that would depend on the guests.  Before you think me an anti-social cad, the guest I'm referring to is our in-laws dog, whom we occasionally take care of.  We have coyotes roaming our area and one dog has already been lost from this house.  This shed keeps them protected.

My father-in-law maintained, well I guess you could say started since he was here first, the process of reusing materials.  The sheathing on the shed was taken from a building which had fallen and was going to be sent to the dump.  He scavenged the lumber and reused it to build the outer shell of this shed.  It has now stood for about nine years and is as solid as the day it was built.  I'm quite impressed with it every time I step in.  The only issue I have is that I am over 6 feet tall and the door is exactly 6 feet tall.  I've only split my head on it once.  At least I'm a quick learner.  Until next time.

I believe the key to a successful shed is the discipline to actually keep it for its intended purpose.  Ours has a habit of filling up with non-gardening items, such as toys, furniture and sporting equipment.  Clutter is what it becomes and items begin to simply be dropped closer and closer to the door until one cannot open the door to get in.  You happened to catch us on a good day, since my lovely wife, M2, spent a good portion of the day cleaning ours out.  We had lovely weather today and she couldn't stand the sight of it anymore.

One last change we're going to make is to put plywood on the inside.  Trying to hang all of the tools on the exposed studs calls for an organizational talent I do not have.  The plywood will allow me to hang more tools and keep everything off the floor, where it has a habit of falling over and becoming difficult to find.

So, the moral of the story?  Get yourself a shed.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Camera Weekend

We finally got the new camera on Saturday that we have been discussing/researching/pondering for weeks, now.  We don't like to rush into these things.  We got a Canon Rebel EOS T1i.  This is the most complicated piece of machinery I have ever witnessed.  Keep in mind, I am not technologically savvy.  I am completely befuddled by the copy machine at work and if anything goes wrong with the computer that requires anything more than turn it off and then back on, I'm at a loss.  My lovely wife, though, does crazy things like reading the instructions.  I did try that, as well, but then decided the best way to figure something out is to go out and start using it.  So, off I went.

Remember, I was perplexed by the technologically.  Next time I'll remember to dead-head a little.

That azalea actually decided to grace us with more then one or two blooms at a time this year.

I'm absolutely fascinated by our new dwarf pomegranate.

The agave is a little spent.  One of four spikes we got this year.  It's up against the south side of the shed which acts as a furnace and the agave does quite well.

Hopefully, the new camera will better the quality of the photos.  Unfortunately, I cannot do much about the quality of the writing other then promise that things get better with practice.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring is Almost Here!

For the past couple of days, we have had unseasonably warm weather, averaging around 20 degrees above normal.  Today it was 86 F (30 C).  Just the right weather to awaken the Japanese Maple.  I believe this variety to be the Ever Red (Dissectum Nigrum).  However, I'm sure I'll be corrected.  The previous homeowner wasn't sure what type it was specifically.  Eventually, I'll narrow it down and figure it out.  One of the downfalls of being a newbie and inheriting some plants.  There is always something to learn.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Greatest Dog House. Ever.

Not much gardening occurred this past weekend, as birthday parties, Cub Scout outings and general illness seemed to rule the day.  However, my son seemed to find time to erect an entire house.  Using nothing but firewood and castoffs from the garden fence, he erected, all by himself, a doghouse to Winston, the dog we are dogsitting.  The pieces we had available were no more than a foot long, yet through his hard work he created larger boards to build the walls and hold the entire structure together.  I couldn't be more proud.

Those Scouts had better be ready when the Pinewood Derby rolls around in a couple of months.  My son won't let me help him.  No matter how much I beg.  And, I guarantee he will have the best car there.

P.S.  Pay no attention to the grass.  Pretend it's all green.  We killed this lawn off with every intention of replacing it over the winter.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Daylight Savings Time Starts

This Sunday morning in the United States we spring our clocks forward one hour to start daylight savings time.  For our family, this is the kickoff for more outdoor adventure, as I will actually have daylight available when I get home from work.  And things, such as gardening, that are normally relegated to our increasingly busy weekends, can be enjoyed during the week, as well.  This also gives us an extra hour to get the kids out of the house and, hopefully, burn the last of their energy before baths and bed.  One of the better times of the year.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Vegetable Garden

It doesn't look like much now, but just you wait.  This is where the vegetable garden will be.  Eventually.  (I never said this garden would be done any time soon.)  That's Banana staring over the fence like Wilson.

There are going to be two 4x8 foot raised beds on either side of the brick path going down the middle.  Since, we have gophers (I've scalped four in two years), I'm going to do my best to keep them out by laying a couple layers of chicken wire on the ground.  Or ground wire, it might be called, as it is specific to keeping rodents from coming upwards.  The outsides of the beds will have gravel, which was saved from when this same area housed a 15 foot Oak with gravel as mulch.  The house lies about eight feet from where the bricks enter the garden.  Needless to say, the oak was too close.  It represented stump three of five I have pulled from this yard.  If I never see another stump again....of course, after I get out the last two.  But, that's another post.

The fencing will be lined on the inside with chicken wire to keep the rabbits out.  Yea, we have a lot of them, too.  On top of the stucco wall, I have enough left over lumber to build a two foot fence that will keep the riff-raff from jumping down from above.  The fence itself used left over slats from a fence that fell on the other side of the house.  The posts and rails are redwood from the local lumber yard.  The bricks are recycled from the yard.  After all is said and done, the garden, minus plants, should only run about $200.  I think that's not too bad.

This area also gets light from the first break of dawn over the hill behind us until four pm, when it drops down behind our neighbor to the west.  That's about a solid 10 hours.  Best light in the yard.  We're starting small, as we haven't grown vegetables before and don't want to become too overwhelmed.  My lovely wife, M2, also wanted to use some of each bed for cutting flowers.  When we become more proficient, we'll put in more beds.  We'll also need to see how they handle the local wildlife and decide if more fencing is needed, or if we can grow rabbit favorites INSIDE the fence, and less rabbit favorites OUTSIDE the fence.  Again, that's another post.

Here is a close up (sorry for the blur...we're still pricing new cameras) of the pavers salvaged from other spots.  We still have about five more rows to put on the far end, which will take us to the end of the raised boxes.  I simply dug a trench and laid them on the ground.  That explains the slight unevenness.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, we're not putting a man on the moon, we're trying to get a wheelbarrow close to a vegetable bed.  Second, we're hoping the vegetable garden path might end up like this one day.

I lifted that picture from Flickr.  If it's a problem, tell me and I'll take it down.

Plenty of work left, and I'll try to actually get picture of plants in the near future.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Olive

It's difficult to tell, but this will eventually be the piece de resistence of the garden.  In the front yard, just to the right of the house is our olive tree.  Although, it looks a lot more like an olive bush at the moment.  It does measure around 11 feet tall and maybe 8 feet wide.  It just went in last June, so we're waiting until this fall to begin trimming the bottom branches to make it actually look like a tree.  Come November, one would actually be able to see the multiple trunks.  There are five.

It is fruit-bearing.  Unfortunately, we have no idea what type of olive it is.  We'll have to wait for the first fruit and then ask someone who knows about these things.  It's the one item in the landscape we did not plant ourselves.  It was the best money I ever spent, as I watched the gentlemen from King Landscape wrestle it off of a trailer and into the hole.  A 36" box, I learned, is out of our area of muscle power.  When asked what type of olive it is, the landscaper scratched his head and said he didn't really know.  Since this tree will last a lot longer on this earth then we will, I guess there is no harm in waiting to find out.

Next up this weekend is some work on the vegetable garden and some planning of the bed this tree, along with the lavender previously discussed, lives in.  Our goal is to have this whole bed planted by the spring.  I think we'll miss it by a few weeks, but should get it in before the heat arrives.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Furniture

This past weekend, we picked up a few items for a seating area we plan on creating.  The chairs and bench, along with a table that didn't fit in the car, are courtesy of my sister who lives out on the coast.  They are in their final resting place; however, it won't be looking like that when all is said and done.  I must make a note to clean up behind the shed before posting pictures on the internet.  Lesson learned.  At least the Camelia is in bloom.

The furniture was my favorite!!  We're going to sand them down and repaint them.  My lovely wife would like to paint them white, but I'm thinking something brighter, such as yellow or red.  I'm afraid white will look a little dirty after a short while.  My sister is looking to replace them, as she thinks they are just a little too worn.  I'm thinking they're just coming into their prime.

We're trying to use as much recycled or re-used items in the yard as possible.  We've recycled some bricks from other parts of the yard and salvaged some more from a relative.  They're going to become the walk in the vegetable garden.  The shed in the background was an interesting project, but we'll save that for another post.

One last picture of them in use.  My apologies on the quality of the pictures.  We're in need of a camera upgrade and, perhaps, I could use a little practice with regards to keeping still.