Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sad Spring and Sad Summer

My mother and I came down with pneumonia around St. Patrick's Day.  I was sicker than she; I missed about 2 1/2 weeks of work.  It was a disaster going back; who knew I was that essential?

In April while sick we watched as two icy snowstorms hit our area.  It ruined the roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and possibly butterfly bushes.  So depressing because we wait all year for our lovely spring and summer, only to have our hopes dashed.  Now the drought is ruining plants; it's just too difficult to water everything every day.

I had to put down my beautiful baby girl Lucy two weeks ago.  The full impact is just hitting me because I am so very sad now.  Last week I went on vacation to Maine so this pain was slightly delayed.  She was 16 on April 19th and had just started to slow down this spring.  She was my great hunter and outdoorswoman, but she stopped wanting to go out and hadn't killed anything in awhile.  I think that's why I have so many chipmunks now.

Lucy was named for Lucille Ball, being that she was a redhead and all.  She was such a beautiful, affectionate, loving little girl.  She liked to sleep on my head or near my face and loved, nay, demanded, to be petted.  I'm pretty sure she had a really good life with me.  I got her when she was three from a no-kill shelter in North Haven.  I hadn't wanted another kitty after my previous little guy had been put down.  But two years later I decided I wanted an orange tabby girl.  I think it was because I was hanging out with people who loved cats, one of whom had seven.  My friend looked all over Connecticut for me.  We went to the shelter and saw Lucy (previously Jupiter), with her sister Carly (previously Snickers).  She was so affectionate, as was her chubby sister.  There was subtle pressure to not split them up, but I didn't want two kitties.  However, they won me over by their loving attention, even when I accidentally dropped Carly taking her out of the cage (I misjudged her girth; her weight has been harder to control than my own).  I brought them into my tiny condo and they promptly hid under my bed - for two days.  I remember telling my friend that my cats hated me!  Finally Lucy came out to see me in the living room.

Lucy was a scaredy-cat.  She would hide when people came over, except when she was super hungry.  I remember when I first moved to my house, my sister opened the front door, scared her and she went flying onto the deck and lept off two stories (she wasn't hurt)!  I was afraid at first to let them outside so I would only let them on the deck.  Well  . . . Miss Lucy figured out a way to climb down the side on the posts and would escape regularly.  They enjoyed being outside so much I relented and let them out.  The girls pretty much stayed in the yard and were terrified of people and cars so they would hide when either would approach.

Lucy liked her privacy more than Carly, who rarely leaves my side.  Lucy liked to sleep on cold days in one of two baskets I lined with quilts and placed near the radiator.  Sometimes she would lie on top of the radiator, I guess to warm her belly.  She loved to sleep and slept very deeply.

Now I'm so paranoid about Carly.  She cries all night.  I don't think she's in pain, maybe it's just dementia.  I'm taking her to the vet's tomorrow.
Lucy loved to garden - and ruin my catmint.
All tuckered out after hunting.
Always very fastidious, if not ladylike.
Taking a nap on the road!
The sisters.
Such a beautiful little face.
Always on the lookout for predators.
The girls hanging out in the front.
Streeeetching out on the front porch.
Guarding the backyard atop the stone wall.

OK, I'll stop boring you with my pretty kitty pictures. Our pets are so near and dear to us, aren't they? They really don't ask for much, and give so much in return. I try not to anthropomorphize them, but it's hard, you know? I don't have children so they definitely fulfill some of that for me. Do you think we will see pets in heaven? I know it's not biblical but just wonder sometimes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Garden Renovation

We're in a drought, since spring.  Minimal snow in the winter didn't help.  It's made life difficult because I decided to renovate the back garden, my very first garden.

My initial idea ten years ago was to have roses for bouquets and hydrangeas for beautiful blue color.  There was no design or thought given to the overall landscape.  I am now obsessed with landscape design, although still find it extremely difficult to execute well.  There are so many elements to consider - color, shape, soil type, light conditions, availability and appropriateness of plant material.

So now I feel like I did everything wrong.  It's an odd space, with the main garden atop a stone wall that gets higher as you head farther back.  I might have planted a row of arborvitae in that "alleyway" to block the neighbors and provide a backdrop for the garden.  I don't know.  That might have messed with light conditions and seemed too dark and closed in.  Instead I made it a shrub border using plants from my mother's former cottage garden.  Here it is with the spirea and hydrangea in bloom.  Ignore the plastic bags filled with leaves, please.  And the neighbor's dog cage, which they don't use.

So I've planted four Winter Gem boxwood behind the row of roses to the right of the clematis tuteur.  (Who knew what a tuteur was until Martha Stewart?)

They're soooo tiny. 

Then I decided that the back garden didn't have enough all-season interest so I transplanted beebalm and phlox and relocated some daisies to the end of the boxwood row near the pink azalea.  That necessitated moving hostas and a peach daylily.  That worked out well because (1) I'm determined to get all my poor hostas out of the blazing sun and (2) the peach daylily is an odd color that doesn't really go with my predominant color scheme of purple, pink and bright yellow.  I put it near the bright orange butterfly weed and it looks great.

I also thought I should repeat the yellow coreopsis on the other side of the garden for balance.  And I moved the dark pink peony to be near the other ones because I suspect it doesn't get enough sun (it gets much fewer blooms than the others).  Unfortunately I mangled it in the process and it may take awhile for it to recover.

The color issue really befuddled me for quite awhile.  I thought the pale pink Fairy rose clashed with the marigold yellow Stella D'Oro daylily.  I bought a red beebalm for stronger color to coordinate with the dark purple butterfly bush.  I thought I'd work with the marigold yellow heliopsis that I had in that area, but apparently I got sick of the aphids that attacked it nearly every year and must have ripped it out.  Oh well, no aphids.  Instead I bought an extremely fragrant Hansa rugosa rose.  It will produce large hips for fall interest as well.

I've wanted to proceed with one of my last dream projects for awhile - stairs for the back deck.  However I've come to realize that (1) decks are usually ugly, (2) two-story stairs are particularly ugly, and (3) they would take up a lot of real estate in the backyard

So I'm toying with the idea of hiring a landscape company whose work I admire to give me some ideas.  I could no longer stand the overgrown, 12-foot barberry that grew next to the deck so I cut it down.  It self-seeds everywhere.  This monstrosity was really five bushes in one.

Started cutting on the left but a catbird was roosting in a nest.
Underneath all that mass of branches was a cute area with a stone wall next to the patio.  I'm envisioning a small ornamental tree at the top with perennials underneath.  The existing hostas and pachysandra are already starting to fry in the sun.

There's a shed under the deck, with lattice I found in the shed, and a thermometer.



I still have to shuffle plants around - some hostas that are getting burnt, a baptisia not getting enough sun, maybe move some daisies to the new planting area.  I'd like to transplant two wisteria seedlings from the front somewhere.  I had to kill the two large wisteria due to the front porch rebuild but found a couple seedlings.

I've gone a little hosta-crazy.  I bought Jimmy Crack Corn, Old Glory, Francee, Frances Williams, and Dream Weaver.  I've started landscaping the wooded area with hostas.  Next year I'll get a Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea and maybe some other larger ones.  Plus I have more "baby" hydrangeas to cut off the mother plant.  Gardening is so darn much fun!

I finally reinstalled the arbor from the front.  It's been two years!  I think I procrastinated thinking it was a big deal.  I had to reattach all the vertical and horizontal slats, none of which had been lost, miraculously.  I did this during the awful heat of the July 4th weekend.  I called my brother-in-law at the last minute because I was unable to balance the arbor over the holes and straighten it at the same time.  It took him practically no time to pour the concrete, which is good because he was called into work during the process.  He told me I didn't have enough bags of concrete (thanks, Home Depot) and filled it in with some rocks.  Then he simply dumped out the bags and poured water in it.  Voila!

It's a little crooked from having the wisteria on it, but like my brother-in-law said, I'll have so much stuff on it no one will notice.

One last thing - this beauty showed up without being planted!


Also, I got rid of all the iris except some by the butterfly weed and right side of the arbor.  I miss it but it's high maintenance.