Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fear and Loathing in Jefferson

I may have mentioned before my absolute and completely consuming fear of S-N-A-K-E-S. Irrational seems like a good word to use here, as do obsessive, hysterical, and neurotic. 

Just to give you background on how bad it is……..

When we moved in here we planted a hedge down an entire very long side of our yard.  A friend gave us these  black soaker hoses that lay flat on the ground and are punctured along their whole length to drip irrigate them. They were highly effective……. except for the yellow stripe.

 I could have mentally blocked out a black S-N-A-K-E mimicking hose easily . Because it was such a  dark color ,unless I was right next to it  I would not have seen it. But for whatever reason , the hose manufacturer addded  a  sporty yellow stripe down the middle of it, and now it was ,to me, a S-N-A-K-E.

Around here if you look like a S-N-A-K-E, even if you are just a dried daylily leave or a hose, you are a S-N-A -K-E until a poke with a very long stick proves otherwise.  Every frickin day I would get startled by that darn hose, and just to be sure, I would have to get a shovel and smack in it’s general direction in case it had somehow morphed into S-N-A-K-E since the last time I smacked it. See, irrational.

The hose eventually went in the trash so I could garden over there  in peace.

I also used to trail run ( like in the woods), and my favorite route took me around a 5 mile loop that ended in a little bridge over a fast river . On lovely spring day, as I approached the bridge which is at that end of the loop and about 1/4 mile from the car, I found a large black snake stretched completely across the trail, head on one edge, tail on the other.

 I froze, he froze, and realizing it was get him off the trail or run back the 4 and 3/4 miles I just finished, I proceed to throw sticks and rocks ( from a considerable distance mind you) , but to no avail. He refused to move. So I turned around and re-ran  my run helped by lots of adrenalin, and now I  run on a  a treadmill.

About 2 weeks ago, the S-N-A-K-E that was living under my potting bench was  on the walkway when I came outside and in an effort to escape me , slithered into the bulkhead. YEEE-IKES! I quickly retrieved Bill ,the great white hunter, who opened the bulkhead and shot it. So there.

It should have been clear to me then that the bulkhead was an issue, but I was just happy it was dead.

This morning I was just puttering around, and decided to use my time wisely and start to bring in some outdoor decorations and furniture that could get damaged in Hurricane Irene, which is headed toward us. Needing a box for some of the birdhouses etc, I headed down cellar to fetch one and stopped cold on the last stair.

My daughter’s flip flops were right at the bottom of the stairs, and to the right of them was a very odd long rope-y thing, and I am grateful that in my head  the old “If it looks like a S-N-A-K-E then it is a S-N-A-K-E”  alarm went off. A rapid jaunt to the top of the stairs to get a stick and a quick poke later, and I am a hysterical mess as…. it IS a SNAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Screaming like a banshee I fly up the stairs again to find the most  completely useless tools I  can to get said thing out of my cellar: a bamboo stick used for garden staking, an orange plastic beach pail, a piece of cardboard, and Erin.

Erin claims she is not afraid of these nightmarish creatures, and to my horror has even held a few, but today seems oddly useless. Maybe it is because I woke her out of a dead sleep and would not let her even pause at the bathroom as I frantically dragged her down the stairs babbling.

Anyway , the plan is to get it in the bucket. We bring the dogs down with us in case it has fled and we need to find it, and she with her bucket goes to the right, and I with my stick go left. The useless dogs can not figure out what the heck we want them to do, and are whining because they know they  are not allowed in the basement, so we let them go back upstairs. I decide I am going to block the stairs while she looks under the nearest chair , and as I go to  move Faith’s flip flops out of the way, discover in a very screaming sort of way that under the flip flops is where it was hiding. 

Erin comes over with the bucket and puts it over the now coiled bastard. But the basement is plush  carpeted, so of course the monster is able to start poking it’s head out. More screaming ensues. I yell at her to push the bucket down harder and head up to get a shovel, which is what I use to kill them outside and should have grabbed in the first place.

Now the S-N-A-K-E is half under the orange bucket, and half under the baseboard , so I wedge the shovel between the two and try to hold it there while she tries to get it in the bucket.

We are at a standstill here, so it occurs to me that what we really could use is some tongs. So I hold the shovel which is holding the almost bisected you know what, and Erin heads up to the kitchen to get the salad tongs. The bugger is now all writhy and squirmy, so it takes her a lot of effort but finally she has a firm enough grip that I can be be convinced to let go of the shovel.

Erin puts it in the bucket and with me following after her, heads outside. From my yelling point on the deck I keep making her walk further and further away before I finally stop and let her dump it.

Afterword, when I finally calm down, I know who is responsible for this trauma……CJ had opened the bulkhead door to sneak out a forbidden guest…and let in the you know what. I am dreaming of ways to make him pay , but since his bedroom is down there, I think having to sleep down there knowing he may not be alone will be enough punishment.

Meanwhile, I have been unable to do a thing since then, suffering as I am from post traumatic stress disorder. I am walking around in a daze, staring at the ground, and thus bumping into furniture and such. I googled repellents and traps and exterminators, but get no sense that any of the aforementioned will help at all. I may have to move, although Siberia can get a little chilly I hear.

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Barefoot in the Garden

So why, you must be asking yourself,  are you looking at my feet??? Whether it is age, or idiocy, I have decided to embrace my wierdness  and twirl around revelling in my odd world and you can come along if you want to , or leave screaming if it is all too much for you.

I garden barefoot. On the odd day I might don a classy pair of flip flops (hence the ever so lovely flip flop tan lines that grace the top of my feet and are impossible to hide in real life lady sandals), and on really tough gardening days like hard digging or sod removal I will force myself to wear real shoes, but really mostly barefoot. And, in case you didn’t notice it, my feet are pretty darn ugly.

Bill, who after a long string of losers wrapped in tin foil rode into my world as a bonafide knight in shining armour , and loves me unquestioningly head to ankle, HATES my feet. They were almost the deal breaker in our relationship because any offspring we had we likely be encumbered with them, but he overcame his revulsion and now just generally ignores them, although I do occasionally catch a glimpse and grimace from his direction when they are propped on a coffee table .

As the summer goes on I get “Indian Feet”, a condition that sounds nostalgic and all but really translates to super tough callouses and the ability to walk on any surface no matter how uneven, rocky, hot cold, or uncomfortable it may be. They also take on a dark as mud color due to the sun, and to be honest probably some mud too.

When I have to wear “girl clothes” in the summer, it all comes down to how to mask the feet, and the angst of it makes me want to stay home and skip the wedding, graduation or whatever all together.

When I garden for others, I am forced to wear shoes, and all I can think of is  Hank Azaria in the Birdcage when Robin Williams character makes him wear a tux and dress shoes. I plod about and walk in the garden like I had 10 pounds of wet trout growing out my ankles. (FYI  Unlike Hank I would NEVER sport shorty short cutoff jeans because there is a definite limit to my indecency).

So there it is, true confessions of a barefoot gardener.

My  first barefoot walk out  out this morning was awesome, the grass was  wet and cold and delightful, you can feel fall moving in ………… I wanted to grab a photo for you to cleanse your mind of the first offending one and end on a happy pretty note!

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Late Summer

EEGADS>>>late summer already?  Today I started a list of to-do s for fall planting, transplanting, and winterizing projects. It was adreary day, so meloncholy was an acceptable mood, but the reality that school starts in 17 days and the nights have certainly been a little chillier and all the harvest fairs are all starting, yikes!!! I can’t bear it!

But I have a secret  happiness in late summer ; one that takes the edge off that frantic-time is going by too quickly feeling; and that is the August border ,( AKA the Dog’s Garden).

The Dog’s Garden was designed specifically to come into it’s glory in mid August (even though the dogs could care less)  and continue until late fall. It all started with 3 old fashioned Rose of Sharon bushes that are virtually invisible  with their narrow vase like form all summer until they expode into bright pink and purple bloom in the late summer. They were part of an old garden near the house that got moved to a new location  when our addition went on, and they became  the jumping off point for the border.

Among the first plants to join the hibiscus girls  in their new home were the clethras (‘Ruby Spice and the white species clethra alnifolia) also known as summer sweet. Their fragrance is heavenly and they are staggered along the back of the border Just opening the porch door invites in the sweet smell of summer.  To finish out the larger plantings I added, two Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Limelight”, Heptaocodium Minocides ( seven sons flower)  and  several blue spruces including a dwarf one that always grows lopsided.

Near the walkway are lined up a handful of red knockout roses that bloom without break all summer, and a David Austin rose ‘Christopher Marlowe’ that has an intoxicationg fragrance and is never without buds and blooms from June through September.Behind them is another long bloomer called ‘carefree spirit’.

Here is the’ Ruby spice’ summersweet and hydrangea’ limelight’

and another with one of the Rose of Sharons

the white summer sweet grows next to a butterfly bush called ‘Pink Delight’…which is….delightful!

An interesting native called symphoricaros alba (snow berry), blooms literally all summer but the flowers are so small you would b=never know it except for the constant hum of the bees who adore it. this time of year it develops it fat white berries that are so fun to look at. The birds don’t seem to care for them, although I have  heard grouse love them, ( we  seem to be  grouse free here). This year I also added a new hybrid called ‘Amethyst” that has pink berries.. An interesting fact about the snowberry and the summersweet is that they both tolerate a wide range of conditions from full sun to full shade, dry sand to heavy clay, and don’t mind wet feet either. Add in the fact that they are bee magnets and they are true  garden lottery winners.

 in this garden I let several annuals seed wherever they like and am always happy with the results. Here is some nicotiana in front of sedum  reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’

this border is also home to Faith’s fairy garden, and the corresponding fairies which reside here but are afraid of the camera . Below is a known fairy resting spot.

Amaranth  is a very cool plant that will shoot up to 5-8  feet in a heartbeat, and works well with lots of other perennials. In this garden it is the burgandy one called amarantus hypochondriacus I let seed. You can eat the seeds and the leaves in salads if you are so inclined.   It has sprouted this year all around the tomato plants and looks awesome there, a combination I wish I had actually thought of myself!

Nasturtiums are planted behind the white bench on the top of a little berm that I hope by next summer will also be draped in clematis . This clematis, c. x ‘jouiniana ‘Mrs. Robert Brydon’, has large fuzzy leaves and small pruple and white flowers and does not twine making it a great choice for hills and slopes (and berms!) The cutting I planted there is doing well and will really take off next year.

I had planted 4 caryopteris bushes when the garden was installed, but over the course of a few years have lost them all except for one very happy one.I think it is ‘First Choice’ , but I am unsure.

Also behind the bench are a stand of Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium ‘Gateway’) and sunflowers. Unexpectedly, they are getting too much shade which NEVER happens around here and I may need to rethink their placement.

Two of the latest blooming daylilys for me, Franz Hil (photo) and Lime Frost, live here.

as does one of only two ornamental grasses I like, Panicum Virgatum     ‘Northwind’ which stays neatly clumped and rigidly upright. ( the other is variegated miscanthus in case you are curious)

In front of the grass are a few late blooming penstemons

The large black seedpods of false indigo(baptisia ‘twight prarie blues’ here) are an added bonus to a great plant that boasts spotless foliage, and early pea like blooms.

This cute climber is thunbergia alata ‘Blushing Susie’ ,  really takes off in late summer.

As does the purple hyacinth bean vine, lablab purpurea, and must have for any garden of mine.

Clematis texensis ‘gravetye beauty’ flanks the entrance arbor to the dog’s garden , and a few others (belle of woking’, Dr. Ruutel, and ‘Rosemoor ‘ will continue to bloom here for a few weeks .

Yet to even start their part of the show  are the heptacodium which will flower all over in creamy white pannicles, and follow that display with cherry red sepals AMAZING!  , the various mums including the oldies but goodies sheffield, and ‘copper penny’; the tall sedums ‘Autumn joy’ ‘Frosty Morn, and ‘Brilliante”, and the Japanese anemones.

All this definitely soothes my anxiety for the winding down of the gardening season. After I get over the hump of september, I am always ready to put the garden to bed and dream of next year while I rest my aching hips and knees.

Head over to Bloom Day at to see what a bunch of othe bloggers all over the country have going on!

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July In Pictures

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