I bought a leaf-blower and the world is still with us.
I know this will consequently make me fall out of favor with some. I have avoided blowers for eight years, doing the work largely with a rake any by hand, but now that a large portion of my garden is a gravelly, dry-land garden, located under a crabapple and between two Norway Maple trees, it was the only way. That much humus would be death to the many cactuses and agaves that now reside there. Raking was not only unlikely but impossible. The tines would have uprooted the shallowly anchored plants, and removing leaves embedded in the long white-spined cholla by hand would have been fruitless and painful.
The blower isn’t a miraculous solution. I didn’t get the bag for the vacuum feature, so I still had to rake up what detritus I blew out of the desert sage. I also gained the insight that desert plants have evolved to catch and hold onto what ever piece of organic matter blows their way, so encouraging them to let go of their treasures was more difficult than I anticipated. I believe the mature Dorr’s sages still clutch a few prized Norway Maple leaves in their bosoms. Gardening by hand still very much applies here.
On the upside, it is amazing how much time the new blower saves. In the back garden, I turned its wind onto the leaves hiding under the dining set and the concrete bench, and cleared off the piles burying the Lewisias. All this work was done in about 3 minutes when it normally would have taken 15 or 20. And, it was nice to blow all of those lovely leaves straight into the beds.
Ironically, it didn’t work as well with blowing leaves off the lawn. I want to get them into the beds, but since they blow away erratically, it’s usually easier for me to do a few sweeps with the rake than to herding stray leaves around interminably.
So my verdict: Leaf-blowers are good for patio, gravel areas, troughs, new rock garden. Use a rake for everything else.
The Weatherman tells me that rain and possibly snow is approaching. Normally, I wouldn’t mind except I have this dry land garden now and there are things in the dry land garden that don’t like those sort of things. Also, since this is the garden’s first winter, it is its first great test. Did I add enough expanded shale to the soil? Have things gotten established enough to survive?
I’m not too worried. Most of the plants out here are tougher than I am. But the Agaves are iffier. They are just wee babes! The Miserable Gardener says the key to overwintering Agaves is to make sure the soil is dried out so they can’t uptake any water. Otherwise, those cell walls will be impaled with ice shards of death. In theory, my soil is well-drained enough that wet soils shouldn’t be an issue. But I’m not a gambler.
In the case of the Agave neomexicana, it can fit happily under a classy dome. I can prop up the bottom on sunny days so it doesn’t too steamy in there.
However, most of the new Agaves are bigger than this. So, I give you the Agave tent:
Agave parryi. I had to fish leaves out of this one’s crown with needle-nosed pliers.
Agave harvardiana with pup!
They are just inexpensive sheets of clear vinyl I picked up at the fabric store and secured into the ground with stainless ground staples. The plastic has the added benefit of keeping the leaves from the neighbor’s Norway maples out of the crowns. Don’t worry. I’ll get those leaves out from under there before they have a chance to get mushy. Air can circulate under the plastic and the spines have punched holes through the plastic to help with that too. #fingerscrossed
Recently, I’ve posted several posts from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Given that many of you who follow the blog are not from Utah, you are not likely to be very familiar with this area. The monument is in the southern part of the state and is unusual for its size; it covers 1.8 million acres, which makes it just larger than the entire state of Delware. Its immensity and isolation makes it appear a bit impenetrable for the casual tourist. Also, given its proximity to the state’s National Park System, it is too often overlooked, although there are areas within the monument worthy of being in a National Park. There aren’t many paved roads in it, just a couple of dirt roads that traverse particularly scenic areas. The Cottonwood Canyon Road is one of them.
Cottonwoods along the eponymous Cottonwood Canyon Road.
It follows the Grand Staircase, or layers of sedimentary rock that descend from the newer Claron and Kaiparowits formations near Bryce Canyon, down to the oldest, the Tapeats formation, in the Grand Canyon. No matter where you go in the Grand Staircase, you are overwhelmed by this sense of change, time, and scale, and you are dwarfed by it. The Cottonwood Canyon Road is an excellent route through the Monument, especially if you start it at its northern end.
The first attraction along the route is the view of Bryce Canyon and the Kodachrome Basin.
Cute bespectacled kids and a view of Kodachrome State Park in the background and Bryce Canyon in the far distance.
Followed by Grosvenor Arch.
Followed by the Cottonwood Narrows.
Followed by many other strange and beautiful things along the way.
As you can see from my other posts, it is also a very good region for botanizing given the changes in the soil composition.
Lygodesmia juncea on the roadside.
If you ever make it down to Bryce, consider taking a day trip even further south. Just don’t try to travel the road while wet or be prepared to be stuck. But, for the record, we drove this in our minivan without trouble.
If you would like a closer look at these images, you can look at them in detail on my Flickr account. The link is in the sidebar.
I had just finished sweeping after mowing and trimming the lawn when the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald descended.
Do you recall those scenes from movies where they turn the wind & rain machines on full-bore? The effect is sheets of opaque rain passing in waves and you sit there and think, “yeah, overkill guys. Rain doesn’t do that.”
I stand corrected.
These tomato stakes are 2x4s, ripped in half and sunk two feet in the ground. The one on the right snapped at the base; the one on the left is leaning severely toward the fence as the ground is saturated and cannot stay upright under the weight of my grafted ‘Cuore di bue’ tomatoes which are now all bruised by hail.
My husband stood under our 8-foot-deep porch futilely sweeping water away from the door while I, safe and dry, watched mother nature turn her hose on my windows. It was fun to watch an inch of rain fall in 15 minutes until my hand felt the water seeping in under the sill.
Waited too long to harvest this chard, I guess.
As we bailed, we also discovered persistent leak in the basement under a window had invited black mold to our party long ago. Not that it matters because I don’t own flood insurance.
The storm passed and we are now left with a few sill-less windows and there’s a space in the basement with an industrial blower on it, void of carpet and a lot of drywall.
This Thimbleberry was a wall of solid, soft green leaves.
And yet, I am more sad that the garden got shredded. Shre-dead. Okay, a bit of hyperbole here, but anything big-leaved looks like they ran afoul of a slasher movie. The water plants are obliterated; the lotus leaves are the most tragic victims in this respect. The damage inside is more devastating since it means I will not be able to order bulbs for this fall, which is a sad first. I also have to cancel my french lessons for the next little while. En conséquence, je pleurerai, comme le ciel.
It’s a personal insult that squash will not grow for me. Specifically, the courgette kind. Oh man, oh man, can I grow cucumbers and melons and other representatives of Cucurbitae. So why is it that I can’t manage to make a single zucchini grow?
"Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!"
Okay, so technically I can grow squash. Maybe I should just tell people I’m growing a gourmet dwarf strain.
I realize that to the average reader, you may be confused why I should be upset that I can’t grow the vegetable-patch equivalent of a weed. It’s that I’ve managed to grow all sorts of tricky vegetables, like celery. Celery! In a desert-steppe climate with scortching summers and sandy soils. I’ve got asparagus plugging along.
Why won’t you yield to me, oh crooked-neck squash? You’ll give it up in buckets to my neighbors. All I want is to go out an pick one for lunch so I can grill it with some salt and pepper and with some parmesan Reggiano sprinkled on top for lunch.
We are making progress this year. I got some blossoms to fry, but woman cannot live on fried flowers alone. If this pathetic showing continues, I may start doing drastic things, like actually trying hard to grow the summer squashes. Of course, the year I do that, the wind will blow in the opposite direction and we’ll end up with a squash tsunami.
Who are these people? is my always my first thought. Look at how full and finished the garden looks after just 3 years! It takes me three years just to figure out if something I planted is actually dead or just sulking from not liking it here. Then, here comes someone with an insta-garden! that looks like I expect mine to look right after a lifetime of labor and right before a peaceful death, except theirs took only three. piddly. years.
The first thought is that these garden swamis are professionals. They’ve taken courses; they run a nursery; they wrote a book; all of the above. This is what they do, and if they can’t make an insta-garden! they will take away their “Horticulturist” badge and demote them. If it turns out that they are not professionals, then three things are happening. (1) All their spare time goes to gardening, ergo, if they decide to travel, they will go see other gardens to see how theirs compares. (2) They also have money. And, (3) they do not have any children.
There may be instances where a gorgeous insta-garden! will pop up in a magazine spread and it will mention the existence of children, but it usually only comes with the mention that they are actually of the professional class masquerading as average-Joe-gardener. In the rare case of spotting a gorgeous garden of an amateur, if they have children, they have two, but no more than three. I have four children. That about sums it up. The zero-population growth crowd will tell me that it’s all my fault, that if I wanted a gorgeous, complex garden, well I should have thought about that before I started having kids. To this wet-blanketry I say, you zero-population growth people are zero-fun at parties. Humph.
Of course I’m jealous of these insta-garden! people. Who doesn’t want an Insta-garden! For as much as we write posts about how art is in the making of it and not in the having, this may be the American in me, but the having sure does feel good.
In short, there are spots in the garden right now I’m not happy with and I’m grumpy because everyone else’s garden blog posts look awesome.
Now that I’m done ranting, I’ll go dump a couple of Benjamins on the bulbs and hope next year is better.