Monday, November 30, 2015

Secret Life

Since Labor Day I have been living a secret life ... and hiding it from you.  Hiding my secret life as a coed.  Well, maybe not quite a "coed", but i am back in school. 

The Virginia Community College System has a strong emphasis on one- and two-year professional training in a zillion specialties.  This is not the traditional college-transfer stuff, but rather preparation to go into the work force in just one or two years.  

[Full disclosure:  my first two jobs out of grad school were in the VCCS system, so I am a fan!]
Entrance to campus
Fortunately for me the local CC specializes in Horticulture, among many other things.  The Hort program is centered on their western campus, which is about 30 minutes west of me, but their central campus is only 5 minutes away and some of my classes are held there, too.

In September I started in "Principals of Horticulture" - a survey course - and "Landscaping Plants I" - woody plants.  For this semester we have studied trees and shrubs that bloom in the fall and winter, as well as the conifers.  I've learned something nearly every week, and, I have loved every minute of it. 
Four greenhouses for propagation and winter storage
Once a week I volunteer a few hours working in the greenhouses and demonstration gardens.  I've been doing things like weeding, planting pansies, digging out dead annuals, deadheading perennials and cleaning up inside the greenhouses .... in other words, exactly the same things that I have been doing at home ...  well, except for the greenhouse part!

A demonstration space with conifer garden behind it

Cleaned-up perennials in demonstration beds
Winter beds ready for covers

and, covered

My favorite view of the demo spaces
Exams are the next two weeks and then I can register for Landscaping Plants II.  Once I have finished that, I will move into the landscape design classes, and maybe a bit of flower arrangement.
I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Let's Not Forget .... either Paris

My plan for today was to tell you about school, but then life intervened in the form of bombings in Paris and the "Paris of the Middle East" ... Beirut. 

While we have been focused on the awful events and tragedy of Friday night in Paris, if you live in the U.S. you may not even know that on Thursday [yes, the afternoon before] there was a bombing in the main marketplace of Beirut.  Forty-five were killed and nearly 240 injured.  In a country with a population of 6 million, that's a big number.  [France has 67 million population.]

We need to broaden our focus and mourn all of our lost brothers and sisters - and not just the Europeans.  Yes, the French have been long time allies and friends, but so have the Lebanese.  In recent years we have not been as close, but i well remember the stream of students in my dad's engineering classes in the 50's and 60's.  Within the past ten years Mitchell sponsored the immigration of a Lebanese family.  Their sons are like our adopted sons.  So, it saddens me that we tend to forget that part of the world. 

I'll just say that we need to find ways to get along; to live together in peace; to allow others to disagree without resorting to killing them.  We need to honor the dead and support their families in these terrible days.

You might want to join the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, chorus and principals of "Tosca" in singing "La Marseillaises" and if you know it, the national anthem of Lebanon.  
[Ok, so i couldn't figure out how to imbed the video.  You're smart and the Google will help you find it.]


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Trimming the Tree

Normally, tree trimming is one of my favorite activities of December - just around the corner!  It involves lights and ornaments and the magic of the season!

Every few years, however, it means something completely different.  The power company sends crews - sometimes goons - to clear vegetation back from various lines.  Unfortunately for us, the rules changed several years after we purchased the house and are now much stricter, so it is often a battle with the crew chief.  [If they keep good notes, then i am surely on their "watch list" because i have zealously guarded our trees - even when that means getting in the face of some young guy with a chain saw and no knowledge of trees!]

This neighborhood was originally farm land and there are many heritage trees - trees that are much more than 50 years old,  like the 80-foot tall water oak that I can see from the desk as i write this - and many of them are now in the way of the lines.  Methinks that the trees were there first!  We are lucky that none of ours spread into the protected area, but if one is not vigilant the crews will cut everything in sight.

I was lucky this year that there was an arborist on the crew, and he and i were able to come to an agreement on what would be trimmed and what left alone.  It seems strange to me that they routinely take out branches that are lower than the lines.  Do they really believe that limbs will fall up?  Nonetheless, my elm only had two small branches shortened a couple of feet. 
I hope to be able to trim a little and make the top of this crepe myrtle more rounded without pollarding too much.  There was no reason to touch this tree.

My next door neighbor was not so lucky.  They cut five feet off her crepe myrtle and left it with a flat top!  We all know how dangerous falling branches are from crepe myrtles ... not!

They did give me a gift, tho.  They cut back the boundary hedge behind me.
Before - You can barely see part of the roof of the house and some of a lovely oak above the hedge.

The ligustrum hedge that separates us from the rear neighbor has been a mess for years.  It is on their property, but I keep our side sheared as best i can.  They have not touched it in years, so it was about 16 feet high and at least 8 feet thick, with honeysuckle and creeping euonymous all thru it.  
It took three "passes" to cut down the top from about 16 feet to about 8 feet.  And, then they sheared the other side, too.

It was rather fun to watch them work, and it will be great once if flushes in the spring.  

I'll shear it back once in February before it starts its new growth and then a second time after it blooms and then it should be set for a year .... well, on this side.
After - what an improvement!
I love it that now I can see the oak behind it, and that my Emerald Arborvitae stands taller.  [It's nearly invisible in the "before" photo.] Still a great green backdrop to my garden, but things no longer 'get lost' in the hedge.  Now, if Santa would just give them someone to do it annually ....

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Life on the Other Side of Retirement

It's been months since I last posted, and I really don't know why.  I do notice that many of my blog-friends are similarly posting less often.  Some are more involved with growing children ... I don't have that excuse.  Some are involved in new relationships .... nope.  Can't use that reason either.  Life just seems to intervene.

Dahlias and  hydrangeas still going strong the first week of October.
Like so many retirees i have known, i just find that my time is even more filled than it was when i was working.  The difference is that now i'm doing what i want, and when i want to do it. 

I have been reading your posts - nearly every day - and commenting a lot, and what i have missed is the "companionship" of the blog world.  Talking with you all makes me feel connected to a group, just as i enjoy knowing what's going on with you.  Am not sure what I have to say these days, now that i no longer have the angst of getting ready to retire, but hope to find more to tell you about both the old and new things in my life.    

The early morning sun makes this the perfect place for breakfast - just enjoying the birds and flowers. 
You know that the garden goes on.  I worked a few hours nearly every day all summer and now into the fall.  You already saw me fill in the pond and make a new sitting area.  That's settled in now and i often carry my breakfast out there and spend a few minutes with the birds.

The heat and drought of August pretty much finished off the herbs, so I pulled them out early and moved the iris to this raised bed.

In early September i pulled out the herbs and moved all the iris to that spot.  It has full-day sun and excellent drainage, so should be a great place for the iris.  Don't really have any plans for the space vacated by the iris, but am sure that something will strike my fancy by spring. 

Now I have two projects.  The small one is half done already.  We moved a large frame that was designed to hold a swinging chair [chair long since dry-rotted!] to the end of the walk that leads to the rear of the property, ["the rear of the property" - sounds like we have acres, in stead of square feet!.  so pretentious.  sorry. ] and in the spring i will attempt to train clematis to climb it.  I plan to wrap it in mesh to provide support, and have already planted a clematis on each side.  [One is already proving tasty to the rabbits, so may have some problems there.]

The "old" veggie patch.  The new one will incorporate nearly off of this space.  More to come on this later. 
The big project is putting in a "formal" kitchen garden.  The above mentioned rabbits wreaked havoc on my veggies this summer, so i am taking decisive action and fencing in a large - by my standards - plot in the last remaining sunny and mostly flat spot in the yard.  It will give me about 20% more growing space for veggies and will provide a little bit of additional space for annual flowers. 

The dahlias have been pretty and plentiful - still blooming on November 1st.  The first frost will be soon and they will be gone.

I'll get the prep work done this fall and then plant new stuff in the spring.  This is a two-fer.  
Obviously, i'll end up with a new garden plot, but also... i am taking a couple of horticulture classes and can use this for a class assignment.  The need to finish "on time" will keep me focused.  I'll save telling you about "school" for another post.

The 'Strawberries and Cream' hydrangea is pretty, but it flops!
The product information did not include that!

So, i'm going to try to post weekly again and hope to hear from you.  Hope your summers went well, and the first half of your fall.