Jane Austen – An Appreciation

While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.

How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.

This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.

When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.

With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.

The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.

And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.

The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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”

DIY Project #1: How to Build a Pond by Ernie Eager

There are some unfortunate women who are married to men who like to fix and build things themselves. Though unskilled in painting, carpentry, and plumbing, they forge ahead with their projects in the misguided belief that they are saving money.

I decided to build a pond in the backyard; the wife was unenthusiastic. I canvassed everyone I knew who could advise me, including two neatly dressed gentlemen who came to the door clutching fistfuls of religious material–the mailman and both garbage collectors.

Hot diggity! My Uncle Jethro and Aunt Edie arrived in their motor home for their month-long stay with us. Uncle Jethro assured me he was an expert on pond building.

“Piece of cake,” he said, clicking his dentures. “We’ll have this sucker finished in no time.”

The wife said i should hire a contractor, then we’d have a guarantee.

“Guarantee!” Uncle Jethro said. “Don’t waste your money. They don’t mean nothing, boy. President Kennedy took out his gun and fired at the shooter. Guarantee? Crooks and thieves.” I gave up trying to make sense of the ideas rattling around under his John Deere cap; there was an ominous silence inside the house where the wife was sulking. Auntie Edie sat on the porch knitting a garment for her 82nd grandchild. When we started digging, she shouted encouragement every now and then.

The area seemed larger that I’d planned, but Uncle Jethro said, “No use fiddling around with a few cups of water, you want a pond you can see! You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.”

We started hitting large rocks; the shovel broke. Even the pick couldn’t move those rocks. Though Uncle Jethro was spry and enthusiastic, he had to retire to his motor home with a sprained muscle.

I asked my next door neighbor if he knew where I could rent a backhoe and a small tractor. He replied: yes, the neighbor’s cousin could help, but he could only do it on Saturday. Unfortunately, Saturday was the day the wife’s sister was getting married.

“No sweat,” said Uncle Jethro, “Me and Edie will be here to oversee.”

On Saturday just before we had to leave for the wedding, my neighbor’s cousin arrived with the machinery. With him was his 14-year-old son who was wearing pants so baggy the crotch reached almost to his knees; a purple Mohawk haircut and two eyebrow rings completed his outfit. The cousin explained that he had to go to another job, but that Shawn here was experienced. In fact, ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper he’d been messing around with machinery.

I had to leave, the frantic honking from the driveway warned me I’d better get going. Though nervous about leaving this child with serious pieces of machinery, Uncle Jethro’s words were soothing. I also remembered Aunt Edie’s shouts of encouragement from the patio.

Five hours later, I returned to find Auntie asleep on the patio, and a hole only slightly smaller than the Grand Canyon where my backyard used to be. A mountain of soil covered three prize lilac bushes.

Uncle Jethro tottered from his motor home, where he;d been taking a four hour nap. Gaping at the disaster, he adjusted his dentures and said, “What the f&%k??” That’s when two things happened:

1. Through the open window, I heard her ladyship talking to a lawyer about a divorce.

2. Uncle Jethro decided to cut short his stay.

When the wife put the phone down, and I called two contractors to come and give me an estimate for building a pond.

The lilac bushes never recovered…

Why Latin is Important

Latin is a dead language,

As dead as dead can be;

It killed the Ancient Romans,

And now it’s killing me! 

Using botanical names is important. Without them, the gardening world would become like the Tower of Babel. Common names can vary from region to region, but Latin is the unifying language. Making the effort to study botanical names has its benefits. For example, when you’re in a group of frighteningly erudite and knowledgeable gardeners and “Helenium autumnale” lightly trips off your tongue. It beats “sneezeweed” hands down.

There was a French gardener, Monique,

Whose English and Latin was weak,

She bought plants quite wrong, they didn’t last long,

Mon Dieu, were those tags all in Greek?

Pictured below are lovely photos of perennials. Their botanical names are quite a mouthful, but take the weekend to learn them! Otherwise, you’ll end up like poor Monique!

What are some of your favorite Latin phrases that can be thrown into casual conversation?

"Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides"

“Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides”

"Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida"

“Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida”

"Heliopsis helianthoides"

“Heliopsis helianthoides”

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.

Too Late for Regrets For Sale at Boulder Book Store

Thanks to readily accessible self-publishing services and independent publishing companies, having your e-book featured on multiple online platforms is now a viable option for all aspiring authors. But there is something very exciting about seeing your work featured on a bookshelf–a physical bookshelf!

Thank you to Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO for featuring Too Late for Regrets in their Recommended section. If you won’t be making your way to Boulder to ski this season, you can also order a physical copy on their website (link below)!

http://www.boulderbookstore.net/9780692229668

TLFR Bookshelf 2TLFR Bookshelf 3

Glorious Roses

Ask not for whom the roses bloom,

Climbing pink "America" and red "Champlain"

Climbing pink “America” and red “Champlain”

they bloom for thee.

English Roses

English Roses

Christmas is around the corner: the season of good cheer, excess, and the opening of gifts (MORE STUFF!). After the last guest has departed, why not collapse on your bed with a handful of rose catalogs, pen and paper in hand and choose the roses you want to plant in the next coming year. In Colorado, it’s wiser to wait until all danger of frost is past before planting.

The photos will whet the appetite and serve as an inspiration to anyone who has ever wanted to enter the wonderful world of this garden aristocrat–the rose.

Climbing Rose

Climbing Rose

Tips for Roses 

  • Prepare the planting with plenty of compost and manure.
  • Provide adequate water; approximately one inch per week.
  • Fertilize 1st of May, 1st of June, 1st of August

Recommended Roses:

English Roses – “Gertrude Jekyll,” “Graham Thomas,” “Abraham Darby”

Floribundas – “Iceberg,” “Carefree Wonder,” “Betty Prior”

Musk Rose – “Ballerina”

Canadian Roses – “Morden Blush,” “William Baffin”

Yellow "Graham Thomas"

Yellow “Graham Thomas”

The problem with growing roses is that no matter how many one has, it’s never enough. Like Oliver Twist, we want more. At the nursery, it’s better to entertain the idea of buying another rose than to actually buy it. But what the hell–as the Duchess of Windsor always said, “Nobody can be too thin or be too rich–or have too many roses.”

For more leisurely reading about roses, see Too Late for Regrets page 251!

Pink Gertrude Jekyll

Pink Gertrude Jekyll

Climbing Rose - Red Blaze

Climbing Rose – Red Blaze

Gardening Tips (On the Lighter Side)

The holiday season is a busy time. Sometimes it seems like everything that can go wrong will, so here are a few household tips and tricks to get you through the next couple of chaotic weeks ;).

Pruning mania:

Never allow an enthusiastic but inexperienced partner loose in the garden with a very sharp pair of hedge cutters. In a short time, an 8-foot shrub will be reduced to three twigs and a few tired-looking leaves.

Avoiding kitchen disasters:

Never go into the garden for just five minutes, leaving a pot of soup or stew boiling on the stove. Two hours later you will return to a smoke filled kitchen and a blackened pot with three pieces of slime stuck to the bottom. Here’s how to deal with this disaster.

Get down on your knees and apologize to the firefighters.

How to clean a blackened pot:

  1. Into the pot pour one cup of vinegar, one of toilet bowl cleanser, six denture cleaning pills, a pinch of curry powder, and several squirts of foaming shaving cream (unperfumed).
  2. Allow pot to stand for two days.
  3. Empty pot of liquids; pot still black.
  4. When no one is looking, throw pot into garbage.
  5. Buy new pot.

Getting the lawnmower ready for summer in eight easy steps:

  1. Assemble tools needed: wrench, oilcan, duct tape, screwdriver, and glue.
  2. Make sure gluggles and whatsits are free of dust. Brush off spiderwebs, including spider’s victim. This is a moth so large, machine guns could have been mounted on its wings.
  3. Oil fluger, being careful not to contaminate exstimbulator.
  4. Using wrench, tighten all dribbets, doodads, and dactyls.
  5. Fix loose handles (more or less) with duct tape and glue.
  6. Empty out fuel tank. Then refill.
  7. Order family and animals to stand well back (especially nervous cats).

Test by pulling cord 89 times. When five minutes away from hernia rupture, load the &*$#inh machine onto pick-up and take to a professional!

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!