Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fall Projects

It's funny that just two weeks ago I couldn't get any energy or enthusiasm about working in the garden. It was the end of the dog days and both the garden and I had a bad case of the blahs. It's amazing what two weeks of cooler weather can do! Now I have fall projects and am excited to get started!

One: To improve the xeri-garden I started this spring. I've already admitted to you that I didn't let the soil settle before I planted this garden, with the result that now it's settled several inches and I need to add more soil. This week I bought most of the components for Mitchell's square foot garden, so I bought double and will use many gallons of this mix to add to the xeri-garden. I have also done some thinking about plants and have purchased several to finish filling out the box. A recent heavy rain and wind smashed one of the agastache 'Ada' plants, so I also need to do some trimming to get it back into better shape to withstand the winter.

Two: Plant fall asters and other perennials. I picked up five cerise asters to put in the back garden for some additional fall color. There are already some white ones starting to bloom, and some lavender and pink coming along so these will help bridge the bloom gap before the chrysanthemums open.

Three: "Fix" the nandina hedge's "bed". This one takes some 'splaining. Our neighbors at the back are nice people, but their yard is a bit junky for our taste. Fortunately, they have a euonomis hedge about 30 feet long that provides a nice backdrop for my garden across about two-thirds of our lot. It is taller than it needs to be, but I keep our side sheared pretty well, and have used it in my color planning. The hybiscus look great against it all summer as the the fall mums. Two falls ago I took all the little volunteer nandinas we had and started a nandina hedge to fill in the remaining one-third of the lot line. Unfortunately, I laid out the bed by eye, but while sitting on the ground. I used plastic edging pieces to enclose it and when I finished I discovered that it is nearly an s-curve - not at all straight. It is makes life difficult when I am cutting the grass and basically looks stupid! So, my plan is to put in steel edging and square up the bed. Some of the nandinas are now waist-high, so by this time next fall I will actually have a decent hedge back there and I want it to look less amateur.

Four: Irrigation. This is a tough problem. We desperately need to run some sort of irrigation to several parts of the yard, especially those with a lot of shade. I would like to add to our shade gardens, but none of them gets sufficient water to grow the things I would like to add. In all of them the plants have to compete too much with the trees that are creating the shade and there is no natural source of water. Whatever we do will be a big project, so I hope to do a couple of stop-gap things for the winter and then plan out something more permanent. Fortunately, most irrigation systems today can be installed "by the homeowner" and no longer require hiring a lot of expensive work done. I may need to get a plumber to run another outside faucet, but I hope that is all.

I cannot tell a lie. I wrote this two weeks ago and intended to give you some photos, but have just not had the time or energy. Am posting so that I can move on!

Betsy's Garden - Revisited

Early this summer I took you to see Betsy's garden - a wonderful round veggie garden that's pretty much right in the middle of her front yard in a very yuppy west end neighborhood - one where I have not seen any other veggies growing and certainly not in the front yard. Thought you might like to see an update.

Here's what it looks like now. That's okra in the center which is filled with pretty yellow flowers as it continues to provide okra. [We have had two dinners from it this week! - yum!] All around the outside are pepper plants of all sorts - bells of several colors, jalapenos, and dozens that are completely unknown to me. There are some annual flowers mixed in, altho the veggies have pretty much taken over the flowers. In all it's just a riot of happy, healthy plants. Close up it looks like this:

I don't know if she plans to do it again next year, or if she is planning to put in more normal front yard landscaping, but it has been fun watching it grown this summer. Kudos to Betsy for trying something new!

Friday, September 18, 2009

So... Neon is Joyful, too!

Fall is such an interesting time in the garden. It's a time when we say goodbye to our special flower friends, but we also look forward to the new blooms that only come at the end of the year. I have spent a bit of time recently deadheading - cutting back the stalks of shasta daisies, yarrow, monarda and other summer perennials.

While I miss the lushness of the mid-summer garden, there is something special about the transition that is going on now. It's nice to see the last day lilies, the last garden phlox and another flush of blooms on the clematis - even the new ones I planted this spring. But at the same time, there are the transitional flowers - especially the sedum and the very first blooms of the asters. One special plant that bloomed for the first time this year is a perennial begonia. My friend Muzzy gave it to me a couple of years ago, but it doesn't really like our conditions. It would prefer a wetter shade than I can give it, so while it has come up every year, this is the first time it has bloomed. When I transplanted a nandina this spring, apparently I brought a rhizome of the begonia with me and it liked the spot. It started blooming about two weeks ago and has stayed pretty without any additional rain.

I have bought several new asters that I plan to plant this weekend. They will provide both instant color and a bigger drift for next year. These are pink/cerise and will go nicely with the white and lavendar that I already have. I hope to show you the asters in a week or two when they are in full splendor. The chrysanthemums are really not ready to bloom yet. I don't expect them to open until early or maybe mid-October. I did update the planter in the front yard with forced chrysanthemums to replace the summer annuals. [Note in the picture how much the dogwood has grown this summer. It got a small amount of mildew on one side, but seems not to be affected by it. There is a smaller tree that was heavily damaged by mildew, so I am going to take it out in an attempt to stop the spread of it.]

In a recent post I mentioned my sedum 'Autumn Joy' and how much I like it. Well, it turns out that it isn't 'Autumn Joy" at all. It's 'Neon'. While shopping yesterday I found plants marked 'Autumn Joy' that were quite different from mine. They are less brightly colored, and not flat - which mine definitely are. I looked around and found "mine" and they are clearly 'Neon'. I don't love them a bit less, but now I want some "real" 'Autumn Joy' to add to my sedum collection. One of the reasons that I like this flower so much is its source.

Many years ago I went to the bank one day and the teller had a vase filled with sedum on her counter. I complimented her on the flower and she insisted I take one and root it at home. She was a lady whom I judged to be in her late '60's or '70's, so I took it to not offend her. I stuck it in a vase and soon it had roots, so I planted it. I now have three decent-sized clumps that grew from that single little flower. I did not know her name but wrote down the plant name she gave me. I won't be able to go back and tell her that she was incorrect, but I can love it under the right name now.

Pass along plants are the very best!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Serena Melts Down

What had been a mostly uneventful professional tennis season ended abruptly last night when Serena Williams foot faulted and was penalized out of the quarterfinals after a very unfortunate incident with a lines woman. It was late in the second set and Serena was trailing Kim Clijsters 6-3, 5-4 and down 15-30. That means that she was two points away from losing the quarterfinals to Kim.

Serena served and apparently stepped on the back line. The lines woman called the foot fault causing Serena to lose one point and giving Kim a huge advantage. Serena stalked over to the lines woman yelling something and shaking a ball at her. Serena returned to the serving line and started to serve, but then turned around and marched over to the lines woman a second time berating her. At that point, the referee called the lines woman to her chair and inquired as to what Serena had said. More words ensued and the Head Referee and a tournament official came on the court and ruled that Serena's behavior merited the loss of a point. That point was the winning match point and Clijsters won.

Apparently there is not a good enough angle to definitively show the foot fault. To me, it looks like she did, but there is certainly room for discussion. But, and this is a big but, the lines woman ruled. In tennis, referees and lines people are the law. They are situated on the court in such a way that they only look straight down a line and they are not supposed to watch the play - only their line. Their job is to watch carefully and decide instantly if a ball is in, out or on the line. In this case she needed to decide if Serena's foot touched the line at all. Just as we have to follow the law in life, tennis players have to follow the ruling of the judges.

Pretty much everyone agrees that it was an unfortunate incident, but interestingly enough not for all the same reasons. The pundits [did you think they only worked in politics?] are divided on whether or not she actually faulted. Those who think that she did step on the line are also divided on whether or not it was proper for the lines woman to call it. Many think that so late in the match, the lines woman should have let it go. What kind of message would that have sent? That pros who are on the verge of losing (or even winning) a match should not have to follow the rules? Or, that the rule is only for club players and pros get a pass? Neither would have been a good lesson.

More disturbing to me was Serena's behavior. She had a warning at the end of the first set for breaking her racquet in anger, so it was already not a good night for her. Obviously she was upset to be losing, and she had not played her best tennis during the match. But, one does not get a pass on civil behavior because things are not going well. She apparently used some bad language which was not picked up by the live feed. In defending herself to the Head Referee she clearly said, "other people said a lot worse," so she knew she said something inappropriate. She also approached the lines woman in a very menacing way waving her racquet. It did not help the situation that the lines woman was of Asian descent and quite small. The image of Serena at 5'9" and 150 pounds advancing on the lines woman at 4'11" and 90 pounds was compelling, and anyone who sees it would have to think the lines woman felt intimidated.

And, of course, the other loser in this situation was Kim Clijsters. She was playing excellent tennis and probably would have won the match, but she did not get the opportunity to win, or to enjoy the win. Even if she wins the finals tonight, there will always be an invisible asterisk on the match. Apparently they are good friends and Kim was obviously not happy with the way the match ended - even tho it was in her favor.

When my brother was about five he would play and play and play until he was so exhausted that he would completely come apart. After some sleep he would admit to having had what he called a meltdown. Many have described Serena's behavior that way, too. No doubt after two weeks of good, hard, competitive tennis she is tired - both physically and mentally. But it's part of being a professional. Pam Shriver described it best when she said that it's the player's responsibility to keep in control and maintain one's calm to play. Serena failed that test last night.