Last Blog of the Season

The gardening season is about to begin and soon I’ll be up to my knees in dirt–digging, planting, and weeding. I won’t have the time to write blogs.

Over 100 tulips have already popped up and together with yellow basket-of-gold and lilac-colored catmint, the front garden this spring should be charming.

My thanks to all the bloggers who have followed me on Facebook and Twitter. I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Heartfelt thanks to Genesse Carrillo of Montana Moon Productions for arranging the texts and photographs so beautifully.

So for the time being, it’s farewell to dear Jane Austen, Penelope Lively, landscapers, the Armani-clad Earl le Baron, the cigarette puffing Hiram I. Swindell, and of course that optimistic DIY-er Mark Malarkey.

Maureen.

In the meantime, don’t forget to order your copy of Too Late for Regrets. Hard copy and e-books available here: http://www.amazon.com/Too-Late-Regrets-Maureen-Jabour/dp/0692229663/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425072314&sr=8-1&keywords=too+late+for+regrets

DIY Project: Fixing Broken Bricks in Path

by Mark Malarkey

Tools Needed: Chisel, quick dry cement, trowel, bricks.

  1. F&*%ing chisel missing, but find three 4-inch paint brushes under pile of rags.
  2. Go to Hardware Harry’s. Buy chisel, bricks, cement, and 6 friggles (might come in handy).
  3. Chisel out bricks. 3 bricks on either side break. Hurry to store and buy 8 bricks.
  4. Mix cement and spread with trowel. Last 2 damn bricks won’t fit. Fill space with extra cement. Will probably settle.
  5. When wife visits sister, call builder to come fix path.

Gardening Tips (On the Lighter Side): Part Two

Healthful Benefits of Gardening

If you think that over the winter months you have overindulged and packed on more than your share of adipose tissue, answer the following questions honestly.

  1. When you stand sideways, do you look like a pouter pigeon?
  2. When you contemplate your back image in the mirror, do you resemble a well-nourished baby hippopotamus?
  3. When you manage to squeeze yourself into your jeans, do you find that every stitch has to do its duty?
  4. Have you found–to your horror–an extra roll around your mid-section, making you look like the Michelin Man?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then it’s time to start gardening. Digging, weeding, lifting, and planting will soon whittle away those unwanted pounds, and by the end of summer you will be your old sylphlike self. You can cheerfully say, “Goodbye Mr./Mrs. Hips!”

Comical Characters in Novels

The comical character in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Collins. He is pompous, overly pleased with himself, and filled with a sense of his own importance. He spouts inanities to anyone who will listen to him. Overawed by having been chosen by the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh to be the rector in her parish, he uses every opportunity to gush about her attention to him (invitations to dine at Rosings!), the size of the rooms in her mansion, the number of windows, and the price of the staircase and the fireplace! He bows and scrapes and hangs on her every platitude.

He is the heir to the Longbourn estate which is entailed (only a male can inherit it). He pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Having no doubts about his attractiveness, he is offended when his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is rejected.

When Lydia Bennet elopes with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins hastens to Longbourn to offer his hypocritical condolences which do not mask his delight at the family’s downfall. Oozing insincerity from every pore, he assures them that they will never recover from disgrace.

He is the epitome of schadenfreude (the malicious enjoyment of others’ misfortunes). Mr. Collins: created for the reader’s amusement by an author with a satirical eye and a sharp wit.

What are some of your favorite comical characters in novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

DIY Project: “Touching Up” a Small 6 x 8in. Flaking Paint Area on Garage Door

by Mark Malarkey 

  1. Sandpaper area. Sandpaper missing. One hour later, find scraps of used sandpaper under box of broken tools next to 10-year-old leaking cement bag now stuck to shelf.
  2. 4-inch paint brush missing–F*$K!
  3. Discover used can of matching paint. Lid not on. Paint resembles industrial strength glue.
  4. Go to Hardware Harry’s Discount (located next to RESTIN’ Peace Funeral Accessories: “Tasteful Accents for the Discerning Mourner”). Buy 4-inch brush, sandpaper, and small can of paint (more or less the same color as garage door).
  5. Sandpaper area. Area has mysteriously increased in size to approximately 6 x 4 FEET. Paint area looks darker than rest of door. Crap! Not to worry, will probably fade to match…
  6. When wife goes out shopping, call painter to paint both garage doors.

NEXT PROJECT: FIXING SHELF ON WHICH CEMENT BAG IS PERMANENTLY BONDED 

Landscaper Woes: Part One

Many years ago, before I found my present excellent landscaper, I decided to do some small garden improvements–nothing too elaborate. I called a landscaper for an estimate. He arrived in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. He was wearing an Armani suit and a wide smile that displayed more than a full complement of teeth. He handed me his card, on which there was an embossed crown and a proclamation that he was:

Earl le Baron

Majestic Landscaping

“We Cater to Aristocratic Tastes”

This was intimidating and depressing, for I had not even a nodding acquaintance with aristocrats. Let alone royalty! The card did not augur well for my bank balance. As we strolled around the garden, he kindly pointed out the mistakes I had made. He then launched into a description of the million dollar gardens he had installed. Deposed royalty, minor European aristocrats, and discredited third world dictators seemed to make up the bulk of his clientele.

“These clients had the good taste to allow me to capture the essence of ‘Olde Europe.'” He airily waved away my economical plan. “Leave everything to me, we want to start with a clean slate.” I had an uneasy feeling that his plan would rival that of Buckingham Palace–with a price tag to match. I pictured the face of my Better Half/Financial Backer; it would be sour. So I scratched him off my list (the landscaper, not my husband).

To steady my nerves after all the talk of clean slates, aristocrats, and royalty, I went inside and made myself a nice, strong cup of tea.

Have you ever hired a landscape service or someone else who turned out to work far beyond budget? Share your baffling experiences in the comments below!

Garden Containers

Of all the garden ornaments, containers can be the most satisfying way to express one’s artistic leanings. They can transform a drab section of the garden or brighten an apartment balcony. Vast acres and a deep purse are not needed for this hobby. Large containers are indispensable for use as focal points, while the smaller ones are useful for moving around or filling in seasonal gaps in beds.

Various containers grouped imaginatively can have an immediate impact on a bare concrete path or patio. While large urns or wooden tubs should be positioned with care (and once placed are difficult to move), smaller pots can be constantly moved to suit a gardener’s whim. The advantage of large containers is that they allow the gardener to create bold, lavish designs and if planted with a long term shrub can provide year-long interest. Fox example, a large urn with a centerpiece of either clipped rosemary or a small Alberta spruce with cascading verbena can be striking. Large containers lined up and planted uniformly make a useful boundary marker; this method could be used to break up bare expanses of wall.

Garage sales can turn up a surprising number of quirky and unusual containers. Old tin buckets, milk pails, and watering cans with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage would make an interesting centerpiece for a cluster of small pots. Daisy-like flowers such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) or Coreopsis “Sunray” create a more informal look.

Balconies:

On an apartment balcony, a sense of summer can be evoked by using pots of various sizes and planting them with perennials and annuals. Perennials such as lavender, marguerite, and pincushion flowers are but a few of the myriad choices. A north-facing balcony could have pots filled with impatiens or begonias. Ferns incorporated into this shady scheme would add textural contrast.

Vegetables in Containers:

Certain vegetables will grow happily in pots–another boon for the sunny balcony. Voracious slugs and their equally repulsive brethren are less prevalent in container-grown vegetables. Lettuce (buttercrunch), spring onions, and radishes will make a nice little salad. While you might not be able to feed ravenous guests with the modest output of your little garden, it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you snip a lettuce, parsley, and spring onions. Tomatoes too can be grown successfully in a container; the taller plants might need staking.

Tips:

  • Containers must have adequate drainage. Place a few small stones over the drainage hole to prevent soil seepage.
  • Mix half cow and compost and potting soil to fill container to within a  few inches of the top.
  • The plants should be well-watered before planting. Plant in the cool of the evening. After planting, sprinkle with Osmacote or any slow release fertilizer. Water gently but thoroughly every morning and evening during hot spells.
Classical Urn

A classical urn.

Another Classical Urn

Another Classical Urn.

Petunias.

Petunias.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.