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

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!”

Landscaper Woes: Part Two

The second landscaper arrived in a battered truck, one door of which had a massive dent roughly the shape of Australia. A broken window was held together with a cunning arrangement of duct tape and plastic sheeting.

At the back of the truck was a ferocious dog of dubious lineage. The landscaper, Hiram I. Swindell, was a gloomy looking man with a hacking cough–helped along by an ever present cigarette. The cough was rich sounding and productive. It started innocently enough with a slight wheeze, then degenerated into a deep rumbling sound. This soon turned into a frenzied sputtering with a gasping Hiram doubled over. This awesome sound stopped traffic in two counties.

Hiram set fire to another cigarette and introduced me to his “designer” Etta Mae–and their grandchild, a small snuffling child whose nose needed attention. Etta Mae measured the area and jotted the result down on a scrap of paper; she conferred with Hiram. The estimate was very reasonable and Hiram offered an extra 10% discount if the total amount was paid. I accepted, for hadn’t my mother always told me that a penny saved is a penny earned? Looking less gloomy than when he’d arrived, Hiram pocketed the check and handed me a card which said,

El Cheapo Landscaping/Sewer Maintenance

Thousands of SATISFIED Customers.

Before they left, I emphasized the importance of being careful with the sprinkler system.

“No sweat,” said Hiram, puffing on his cigarette.

“No problem,” said Etta Mae.

The hound barked and the child sniffed. He, Etta Mae, and the child whose nose now needed urgent attention got into the truck. Hiram promised to start on Monday. I believed him…

2 to 4 weeks later, the crew arrived; the “foreman” with a long ponytail and a beefy man with snakes tattooed on his bulging biceps. They both wore T-shirts that announced their preference for a certain brand of beer. They embarked on the most important part of the project–an early lunch. 3 hours later, they returned feeling refreshed from their watery “lunch.” I reminded them to be careful with the sprinkler system.

“No sweat,” burped the “foreman.”

“You betcha,” grunted the beefy one. He set to work with a vengeance, using a sort of rototiller to rip out the lawn while the so-called foreman studied “the plan.”

Two hours later, I discovered that they had ripped out not only part of the sprinkler system but also 3 valuable shrubs.

They headed for their truck saying they’d be back in the morning “to fix things up.” I never saw them again.

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.

DIY Project – “Fixing” Outdoor Chair that “Rocks”

by Mark Malarkey

Tools needed: saw, sandpaper, heavy file.

  1. Saw four inches off three of the legs to even out. File legs, sandpaper them. Front leg uneven.
  2. Saw five inches off front leg, file, sandpaper. Two back legs uneven.
  3. Saw three inches off front legs. Still uneven.
  4. Saw two inches off all damn legs. Chair seems to be one foot lower than other chair.
  5. I know! Attach thick cardboard to legs to stabilize. Wind duct tape around cardboard, use glue to make sure cardboard is firmly attached. Chair still “rocks.” *%$&.
  6. Buy new chair. DIY Outdoor Chair