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.

Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

DIY Project – How to Fix a Lattice Fence

by Mark Malarkey

I woke up last Saturday to find that during the night, a gust of wind had blown down part of the lattice. The wife said she’d call the fence people on Monday, though secretly I’d intended to fix the fence myself. The wife and the kiddies were going to visit her mother (great news), which meant she’d be gone for at least 7 hours. This would give me plenty of time to fix the fence without all that nagging and advice.

With the little lady out of the way, I inspected the damage–which seemed worse than I’d initially thought. Two of the posts were leaning and the wood of the lattice was badly splintered. Not to worry, I’d soon have this sucker ship-shape. I made a list of what I’d need:

Quick dry cement, spade, saw, industrial strength glue, hammer, and nails.

I assembled the tools–hammer, spade, saw…where’s the ^*%$ing saw? I searched through the garage (what are we doing with all this STUFF?) but found only a missing chisel under a pile of National Geographic magazine (1978). I eventually found the saw under a pine tree where someone had left it; it was rusty and unusable.

I immediately jumped into my car and in my hurry, backed into the *^#%ing mailbox. I left the debris on the sidewalk, sped to Sam’s Surplus Tools/Body Piercing Parlor, and bought quick-dry cement and a new saw.

Back at the house, I dug around the fence posts, mixed the cement in an old salad bowl I found in the kitchen, then poured the cement into the holes. The posts still seemed to lean slightly, but not to worry, they’d probably settle. I used the saw to saw one of the badly splintered lattice; the rest were easy to stick together with glue and duct tape. I fixed  the missing part of the two lattices with pieces of wood I found in the garage.

One panel looked a bit crooked, but was easily fixed with more duct tape. That’s when a large splinter pierced the palm of my hand…

When I got back from the emergency room, the little woman had returned–and surprise, surprise, her mother (that sour-faced bag) was with her. They were inspecting the fence, I could see that they were impressed with the work I’d done. The wife was holding the salad bowl; I suddenly remembered it had been a wedding gift from her Autie Irma.

It was obvious I’d saved a bundle by fixing the fence myself. So I can only say to all of you do-it-yourselfers: go for it, you’ll save a lot of money!

Repaired Lattice Fence

Repaired Lattice Fence

Glorious Roses – Part Two

The following roses can be added to the list of desirable roses.

In harsher climates, the rose fancier should limit choices to the hardier varieties. For example, Canadian roses.

Some gardeners prefer own root roses as they develop deeper root systems. The disadvantage is that they will be smaller than container-grown roses, but in time own root varieties will become stronger.

Aphids:

These annoying pests can be dealt with by relying on the gardener’s best friend, the ladybug. If there is a paucity of them in the garden, they can be purchased in mesh bags from the nursery. The bags should be kept out of the sun until the late afternoon; this is the best time to scatter them. They will go to work immediately with amazing efficiency.

Another–though tedious–method is to rub the buds and stems of the plants gently between forefinger and thumb. This will dislodge and squash the pests, giving the gardener much satisfaction.

"Winnipeg Parks"

“Winnipeg Parks”

Pink "Touch of Class"

Pink “Touch of Class”

Climber, creamy, white "Sally Holmes"

Climber, creamy, white “Sally Holmes”

Musk rose "Ballerina"

Musk rose “Ballerina”

Yellow "Sunsprite" and pink "Simplicity"

Yellow “Sunsprite” and pink “Simplicity”

Unwelcome Guests

I looked out the window and to my surprise,

I saw a deer of tremendous size,

It was well-fed and sleek, it had quite a girth,

It ate all my tulips–200 dollars worth.

Planning garden beds is similar to planning a party. Combing through your list, you will have chosen the most amiable and interesting of your friends and relatives. However, because of circumstances beyond your control, you find yourself having to invite your best friend’s cousin–she’s the one with the purple hair and pierced body parts. She not only drinks herself under the table, but sometimes under several guests as well. To avoid hurt feelings, Aunt Edith’s doddering brother also has to be included. And Uncle Howie’s interminable stories of his camping trip to Dry Gulch Park can empty a room faster than your sister-in-law’s offer to sing an aria from Aida. These guests may be unwelcome, but they are nonetheless invited. It’s the gatecrashers who are the problem–people you have never met who arrive unannounced.

In the case of my garden, the welcome guests are the roses, clematis, perennials, and annuals. The gatecrashers are slugs, deer, and rabbits; added to this dreary list are the weeds, those ruffians of the garden. See Too Late for Regrets, page 216, for a vivid example.

Slugs will chew their way through a bed of annuals in a few days. These horrible hermaphrodites come out at night and are most prevalent after it rains. To deal with them, I go out with my trusty scissors and emulate Henry the Eighth–decapitating as many of them as possible. Soda cans cut in half and then partially filled with beer can be effective. Every morning when I inspect and find dozens of corpses, I rub my hands with glee and dance my way around the beds.

Deer are charming creatures, but they can devour all the tulips in your beds. A friend told me that allowing chewing tobacco to steep overnight in a bucket, then spraying the emerging foliage in early spring would deter them.

Weeds should be dealt with early in the season; the soil is soft and weeds are easy to pull out. Closely planted perennials and annuals will shoulder out the weeds, depriving them of nutrients and light.

Have you ever had any unwelcome guests–either at your party or in your garden? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Closely planted perennials deter weeds.

Closely planted impatiens deter weeds.

Lucky tulips which have escaped the attention of browsing deer.

Lucky tulips which have escaped the attention of browsing deer.

Annuals – Gems of the Garden

To plant is human–to succeed is divine. 

Annuals are indispensable for filling in gaps between perennials. They are obliging plants and will bloom until the first frost.

Gertrude Jekyll, doyenne of English gardeners, introduced an imaginative way of using annuals; she arranged annuals within the same color wheel. For example, she used various tints of blue and purple, or different shadings of pink. (See Victoria’s border “Pink Magic” in Too Late for Regrets, page 251.)

A circle around a tree or birdbath can be stunning.

The phrase “be fruitful and multiply” in the Book of Genesis applies to perennials; annuals, on the other hand, complete their entire life cycle in one year, focusing all their energy into making seeds, which is why deadheading is important in prolonging the flowering period.

While the blooming period of perennials is three or four weeks, annuals bloom more quickly and for a longer time. Although their stay in the garden is ephemeral, it’s brilliant while it lasts.

In colder climates, annuals brought from the cozy environment of the nursery should be hardened off for a few days before being planted. For example, one should bring them indoors at night. If perennials are the batter of the cake, economizing on compost is like leaving out the eggs or sugar in a recipe.

Annuals are the fastest way to achieve color. When the season ends one can sigh, “The annuals have ended, but the memory lingers on.”

Impatiens, begonias encircle a tree

Impatiens, begonias encircle a tree

Dwarf snapdragons, lobelia erinus and alyssum.

Dwarf snapdragons, lobelia erinus and alyssum.

Alyssum in a container, spill over in a pretty cascade.

Alyssum in a container, spill over in a pretty cascade.

Cosmos bipinnatus and zinnias fill in gaps between perennials.

Cosmos bipinnatus and zinnias fill in gaps between perennials.

Gloriosa daisy (rudbeckia hirta).

Gloriosa daisy (rudbeckia hirta).

Birdbath surrounded by flowering impatiens.

Birdbath surrounded by flowering impatiens.

Gardening Tips of the Week

  1. When buying annuals, perennials, or vegetables, avoid leggy or wilted plants. inexperienced gardeners will be disappointed at their lack of success; disgruntled, they will rush back to the nursery with their pathetic purchases, their dismay matched only by the gloom of the sellers.
  2. To prevent squirrels or other miscreants from digging up newly planted bulbs, throw a few mothballs into the planting hole.
  3. A pair of kitchen scissors is a useful garden tool. Deadheading, decapitating copulating slugs, digging out shallow rooted weeds and cutting string are among their many uses.
  4. Tie a colored ribbon around your small tools; if you lose them in the unmown grass, they’ll be easier to find.
  5. If you are stung by a bee or hornet and are allergic to them, elevate the limb and apply ice packs to the area. Contact your doctor.
  6. Please yourself; that way you’ll be sure of pleasing at least one person.
  7. Livening up inexpensive clay pots. Wipe the exterior of the pot with a damp cloth. Attach masking tape vertically to make as many stripes as you want. Paint the entire pot white (including tape). When the paint is dry, remove tape. The result will be a white pot with perfectly straight orange stripes. Plant with either boxwood or with annuals or perennials of the same color. Line several of these pots against a wall or along a path for a striking look.
    Healthy alyssum and petunias.

    Healthy alyssum and petunias.

    Vibrant flowers surround a fountain.

    Vibrant flowers surround a fountain.

    Great choices make for healthy flowers.

    Great choices make for healthy flowers.

    Potential DIY project for the spring - decorating a simple clay pot!

    Potential DIY project for the spring – decorating a simple clay pot!