Soon to be renowned!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don't Go in the Kitchen

It's December here at Fencebroke, and the grounds resemble nothing so much as a house-party the morning after. In the hour or so of rain-free daylight the Northwest typically portions out for the month, I can be found wandering around outsidethe dazed and regretful host of said party miffed that no one bothered to clean up after themselves.

A few storms must've crashed the party, at some point, like drunken frat boys, their blowdown scattered like broken furniture. And some jackass frost snuck in when I wasn't looking: just look at all those dead annuals. How hard is it to pull a few on your way out? Then there's—whoa! What happened out front? Who invited the deciduous gang? Jeez, OK, if everyone would just spend five minutes helping, we could have these leaves raked up in no time. No? No volunteers?

So I divide my precious window of time into equal parts cursing at missing plant tags (would guests really stoop to such petty theft?), tossing Christmas lights over everything to disguise the mess, and desultorily hacking at dormant perennials—once spirited members of the previous seasons' debauch, now rudely undressed and passed-out all over the yard.

And the veggie garden … ugh, I don't even know where to start. In the house-party scenario, it's like the kitchen. You all know what I mean. It was, like, party headquarters in there just a few short weeks ago. Now it's—oh god, the sink! Well, it just goes to say: you should always at least clean the kitchen before you stumble off to bed.

Don't anybody go in there until I say it's all clear.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Missing Garden!

Disappeared sometime last week. Responds to “Fencebroke”. The garden is youngish, something of a mutt, and can be identified by an excess of kale planted everywhere.

We have looked everywhere for it, but our search has been hindered by endless drifts of fallen maple leaves. As soon as we rake up a section hoping to spot our beloved garden hiding beneath, it is buried by another wave of leaves.

It cannot have gotten far, as it is a garden with limited mobility. We have not ruled out the possibility of a garden-napping, but to date have received no ransom demands. More likely, it has merely gotten lost somewhere out front or back. The leaves just keep falling; the poor thing must be so afraid!

Please help reunite us with our Fencebroke. If you have any information that can help, or if you happen to spot a scared-looking fruit tree or two beneath a pile of leaves, do not hesitate to call, day or night.
We can offer little money as reward, but rest assured you will be paid handsomely in kale.

Friday, October 17, 2014

...Pumpkins, I guess.

And that concludes this edition of “What's Going on in the Garden?”

Yeah, October is always a weak issue.

I don't know, I think I might have seen mums out there, somewhere (who am I kidding, I've been swimming in them for weeks now at work). But mums are basically a bad punchline to a long year of hard work. They're a consolation prize. Thanks for participating this year, please take a pot of mums on your way out.

Seriously, please take some mums, there are way too many here. If you don't take them, I'm handing out mums to trick-or-treaters, that's all there is to it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Waste Not

It's the peak of the Summer harvest here at Fencebroke. This year, a conscious emphasis on edible plantings, together with a long, warm season have led to bumper crops across the board. This has been our best, most productive year so far!

Critics may sully this claim by pointing out that this has been our only year so far, but if I checked myself every time a garden critic lashed out in semantic ire, well then I'd never get anything done, would I? Those jerks are everywhere.

As it is, I'm far too busy harvesting, cleaning, preserving and stuffing the fruits of our labor into my face. At a certain point, however, when one's stomach is full and the cornucopiae are still bursting, one must get creative in putting the bounty to good use, lest it rot and succumb to painful, criminal waste.

We tolerate no such crime at FPG. For example, at first glance it may appear that I have planted too many tomatoesnot true! To begin with, our trusty assistant Daisy must “inspect” a good 70% of all low hanging fruit in order to meet our rigorous quality control standards. Her “bite and spit” inspection method may seem more destructive than edifying, but you can't argue with the results: to date we have not received a single citation for … bad … tomato growing. Uh, that is, no ... tomatoing violations. (Wait, gardening citations are a thing, right?) In any case, after her inspection, any tomatoes that survive our ceaseless barrage of caprese cravings are boxed up and taken to the local theater district, where they are sold to ill-tempered theater patrons as ammunition to hurl at less-than-nuanced performers. Hey, don't judge; the way I see it, our tomatoes play an important role in cultural critique.

Our other surpluses are put to equally important uses. Excess carrots are tied to strings and sold at farmer's markets as motivational tools for stubborn mules; any leftover quinoa is funneled into our homemade, frozen gluten-free waffle side business; peppers are dried and used to flavor a passable cool-ranch snack chip; collard greens, grown massive and too tough to eat, are lovingly sewn together and sold as organic bed sheets; patty-pan squashes are taken down to the University and pawned off as custom discs for rabid disc-golf enthusiasts; likewise Brussels sprouts to hacky-sackers; long oriental cucumbers can be chained together to make a convincing pair of nunchucks; and, perhaps my favorite, any extra beets we are left with are boiled, pureed, and given to Daisy as an easy way for her to express her dissatisfaction with the bland color choices of Fencebroke's interiors.

And there you have it! With a little creativity and good business sense, nothing from your garden need be wasted!

Now, can I interest anyone in a few pairs of cukechucks?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scenic Gateway to Beans

Come in, your wildest Beans fantasy awaits!

Welcome to beautiful Beans!

We hope that you enjoy your visit to Beans, where opportunities for recreation and leisure abound. Observe ripening beans in colors of green, yellow and purple. Pass through the scenic Gateway to Beans and be playfully slapped in the face by dangling beans. Pass through the other direction and do it again! Try picking some beans. Try eating some beans! Look at the beans!!!

Yes, here at Beans we offer all manner of experiences specially tailored to meet the demands of a modern Beans lifestyle.

Watch the beanstalks grow!

Don't be fooled by upstart Beans copycats, like Corn, which claims to offer a complete vacation package but falls short in areas like scenic gateways and beans. There can be only one Beans.

Do you ever find yourself wondering: how can I make my life more beaningful? If so, look no further than Beans, which promises more beans per stay than that imposter, Corn.

Meet the Beankeepers themselves, signing beans and chatting with guests every Friday and Saturday night. Discuss the many merits of beans with like-minded beanfolk as evening fills Beans with lovely moonlight.

Sleep outside, beneath the gently swaying beans of Beans, and awake refreshed, invigorated by the close company of so many beans.

Enjoy a world class menu; here at Beans, we offer a wide range of authentic bean dishes (much imitated by those thieves over at Corn) such as: Warm Beanbread, Beanflakes, Bean Fritters, Bean-on-the-Cob, Creamed Beans and, everyone's favorite, Popped Beans around the campfire.

Wow, what an opportunity for fun and beans! We are now accepting reservations. Don't wait, stop by Beans today!

If you are satisfied with your visit, please recommend Beans to friends and family. We look forward to your stay!
Please come visit again!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Drought Barrel Addendum

The drought barrel now overlooking scenic Lake Foot-in-Mouth.

It would seem Mother Nature did not appreciate the tone of the previous post. A mere few days after my sarcastic tribute to western Washington's seasonal drought, we were hit with record rainfall. In the span of an hour or two, Fencebroke's previously derided "drought barrel" was overflowing with rainwater, creating a small lake in its footprint (I'll go ahead and christen this new water feature "Lake Foot-in-Mouth"). This has gone on for a couple days now. The plants and the gardener are happy, the writer thoroughly disgraced.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Drought Barrel

Fencebroke's Drought Catchment System

Whew! It was a close call, but my wife and I just barely got Fencebroke's new catchment system installed in time for the summer drought season. We almost missed the longest, most productive dry spell of the year! Where would that have left us when the fall rains return? Here in the Pacific Northwest, the rainy season lasts for about 9 months, so if you don't have a good, functional drought barrel in place through July and August, you're facing a fortune piping in desiccant from the municipal reservoirs all through Autumn, Winter, and into Spring.

Not to worry though, we wrapped up assembly and installation of the cistern just as the last rain clouds withered into a searing blue sky, not to return for months. The model we chose was a no-frills, utilitarian number meant to blend in and soak up as much aridity as possible. My wife's careful research was spot on, as the vessel is already full to the brim with parched, bone dry air. Fifty or so gallons worth. That may not seem like much to you desert dwellers out there, but in soggy Puget Sound, 50 gallons of drought goes a long way in November. Every little bit is less time I have to spend out back with the hair-drier and less money out of my pocket. This thing is sure to pay for itself in no time!

Please note, I have heard of some folks using these barrels to actually catch rain instead of drought. Never could I dream of such irresponsible, reckless behavior. This is foolhardy sorcery, which I cannot in any way endorse. No, once you have exhausted your store of drought for the season, it is best to just clean out the barrel and store it safely upside down until the next heat wave.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Fencebroke Crows

AKA The Birdbath Bashers, AKA The Raucous Ruckus, AKA The Corvid Cartel.

AKA “Wildlife”.

Because they are the sum total of wildlife thus far lured to Fencebroke's aspiring backyard nature preserve. Oh sure, a lost squirrel or ragged stray tabby will skulk across the grounds from time to time, but their steps are furtive and guilty; they know each one is further trespass into the dominion of the crows.

Our old red birdbath is to blame. Once an innocent enough gift to my wife, bestowed in the hope of attracting some spark of life to a freeway dominated ecosystem, this paint-chipped basin has now become the headquarters, day-spa, and mess hall for a cadre of jet-black hooligans. At our previous homes, all manner of cheerful, Disney film songbirds would congregate atop its innocuous pedestal to sip, splash and cavort while our hardened urban hearts melted in delight. I expected nothing less when I deployed the birdbath to Fencebroke North. The paisley bed seemed a good home for it, so I plopped it in the middle, filled it up, and didn't give it another thought.

Until I started finding soggy food scraps in the bowl. Every day.

I'd rinse it out, shake my head, fill it back up and, sure enough, by the next morning, the clean water would once again have turned into some disgusting soup. I was baffled, annoyed, perplexed, until one day I happened to glance outside as a neighborhood crow swooped in from the roof of my shed with a freaking slice of pizza in its beak. It landed in the birdbath (nearly toppling the precarious assembly, designed more for sparrows and chickadees than these buzzards) and proceeded to dunk the pizza, repeatedly, into the water. Mystery solved. My birdbath had become nothing more than a soup bowl for an industrious, dark-winged scavenger.

Thinking this was perhaps a single culprit who had discovered new uses for a common garden ornament, I was prepared to grudgingly accept the crow as a quirky pet/mascot, an embodiment of FPG's unexpected charm. Over the course of several weeks, however, this naïve notion evaporated as more and more offenders cawed and flapped their way onto the scenea parade of unwelcome guests, each in turn fouling the waters of my daily offering to backyard diversity with crackers, bread slices, donuts and various other dishes which apparently appeal to discerning crows' pallets only when softened in the cool, still waters of a local birdbath. And as for whatever backyard diversity was once to be found, it has now gone into hiding, or moved on to friendlier yards, because it is terrified of the leering murder that has claimed Fencebroke as its own.
Don't be fooled, there are more lurking nearby.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The soul of wit?

Please sorry writing. Laptop broken. Fat fingers swipe tiny screen instead; Inferior! Type like caveman/telegraph now. Stop (??? Unsure telegraph syntax.)
Lesson in brevity (time 4 twitter? No. Never time 4 twitter.) Must garden blog! Stop. Ok
Garden update. Haiku? Try haiku:
A garden update
But I already said that
So much 4 haiku
/$\&$#\% $'@ GARDEN! JUNETIME. 2 MANY PEAS! wateringwateringwatering. Plant witchhazel. Wrong spot. REPLant @-$##/* withhazel. Replant $//@-'* everything! More peas. Weedingweedingweeding. MOW THE LAWN AGAIN. Daisy "pets" a bee. OMG APHIDS!!!!!! SQUIRRELS!!!! And
Stop. (Anyone want some peas???)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Accursed Serpent

Just some useful info about a common garden pest.

...The Accursed Serpent, by which I am, of course, referring to that most petty, subversive and vile of outdoor beasts: Contortus aquatica, better known as the common garden hose.
C. auatica is not a native species, but has been routinely introduced into backyard habitats the world over. It's presence can usually be inferred by tell-tale signs such as broken plants, toppled statuary, and persistent foul language, either shouted or muttered under the breath, by any nearby humans, a natural enemy with whom it has struck an uneasy symbiosis (tending toward parasitism). Gardeners, a peculiar subspecies of human, in particular seem vulnerable to hoses, and may, in fact, be largely responsible for their introduction into the cultivated ecosystems upon which they wreak so much havoc.
Once a garden hose takes up residence in a given garden, a human will normally initiate contact in order to (hopefully) take advantage of the hose's unique ability to move large quantities of water to any desired location. The hose clearly resents such manipulation, and although it relies on the human's utilities as a source of water for its nest (indicated by all manner of poorly constructed hose reels, cradles and racks), it will stop at nothing to sabotage his plans.
The chief mode of defensive action employed by the Contortus is the kink (from which its generic name is derived), although it can just as easily resort to the tangle, the leak, or, as previously mentioned, violently lashing out at or snarling nearby plants and objects in hopes of visiting destruction upon some target of value to the human host (the garden hose cares not for collateral damage; once again, it is a petty, cruel creature). Any one of these tactics can be sufficient to incite anger in the average human, but the gardener subspecies, with its labyrinthine garden beds, full of vulnerable pet plants and precarious, sentimental garden art is an easy target. A successful attack by the garden hose on a gardener can result in apoplexy, for which the most commonly prescribed treatment is going inside and watching TV. Obscene muttering under the breath, however, can continue for hours after the attack.
Contortus aquatica is officially listed as a noxious, invasive serpentine species and should be eradicated wherever encountered. Gardeners are encouraged to employ watering cans or just wait for rain as safer solutions to their irrigation needs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Edible" Landscaping

If it seems to you that FPG's progress has stalled, allow me to explain. My assistant, Daisy, and I have reached an impasse. While we are both taken with the idea of edible landscaping as a central theme for Fencebroke's plantings, our individual interpretations of what “edible” means are simply irreconcilable. This has unfortunately created tension in the office and on the grounds and has delayed what would otherwise be a smooth roll-out of my singular vision. For the most part, our disagreements remain civil, as she has proven remarkably mature for one so young, but I must admit to some occasional raised voices, senseless babbling and unhinged sobbing—all on my part, sadly.

Daisy was tolerant of, if unimpressed by, my use of plants like German chamomile, quinoa, and heirloom French leeks to create unexpected edible accents in our central ornamental bed (yes, the paisley one). But her own vision tends more towards things like small rocks, bits of trash and lawn clippings—anything, really that she can easily choke on and terrify her supervisors. It's not that I don't understand her view, it's just a philosophical difference: to her, my idea of “edible” as something safely consumable by humans is too restricting. She prefers to take the broader stance of “edible” being anything that, wholly or partially, can fit into her mouth. And I respect that. I just disagree.

So it is that our gardening sessions together start out peaceably enough, but tend to lapse into a common refrain, shouted by myself across the yard in five second intervals: “Daisy! No! Not Food!” Followed by a mad wind-sprint as I attempt to reach her and fish out whatever bit of debris she has most recently decided to consider “edible” landscaping.

We'll get it straightened out, but until then it may be slow-going at Fencebroke.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


It's cooler when you say it out loud. MAY-oss. Like chaos but in May. May chaos, get it? Vernal disorder; a dapper springtime riot; the unbridled, reawakened beast that is the horticultural industry come Mother's Day. Did I mention that I work at a garden center? This time of year, garden centers become the hot, dense, raging cauldrons from which Maos issues forth. They are unruly mobs of flowers, hanging baskets and startled gardeners in whose face Spring just exploded. Maos. I don't know. When you read it, it seems forced. Is it the spelling? Does seeing “Maos” unleash a gaggle of Chinese Marxists to foment revolution in the mind's eye? That's a different sort of chaos altogether, and not at all what I intended. Or does it read like some tiny, easily-forgotten nation treading water in the vague expanse between Zimbabwe and the South Pacific? Either way, it's failing to convey this howling vortex of plants, customers and physical fatigue I am invoking in order to justify a complete lack of progress on all fronts Fencebroke.
Maybe if we spell it m-a-y-o-s—
OK, bad idea, now we're talking a selection of sandwich spreads. That's tasty, but no great excuse for a gardening stalemate. I'll just leave it as Maos. Deal with it. It's why, at the end of the day, I have little energy for anything but collapsing onto the living room floor and spending “play time” as a half-asleep, passive jungle gym for my daughter to climb on and explore. I keep hoping Daisy will take a hint and learn to weed the garden, or at least do some watering already. Daddy's tired. Why don't you go “play” with the dandelions for a while.
Despite repeated bouts of Maos, I ought to mention that I have managed to mow the lawn. Twice. This requires minimal physical or mental coordination, and though I may resemble nothing so much as an injured zombie shuffling behind and leaning on the mower, it still seems a noteworthy (if not quite blogworthy) accomplishment. In addition, I bent some chicken wire over fenceposts and called it an arbor. That's good enough for May.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Before and After/Persian Pickles

I get a mulligan, right? A redo? That's how gardens work, if I'm not mistaken. It's kind of an unspoken rule amongst gardeners.

That being the case, I'll go ahead and use my mulligan here, with this vaguely paisley-shaped (or is it paisle-shaped?) bed I put together.
Don't get me wrong, the shape is fine, I mean who doesn't love paisley? (Actually, I'm going to interject here that “Vaguely Paisley” has some serious potential as a band name. Whoever wants it, take it. My royalty fees are reasonable.) See, I even sprung for the plastic lawn edging to help maintain and emphasize that fantastic shape. (Oh, but you know who doesn't love paisley, I bet? Zebras. It would just look terrible on them.) So the shape of the bed is fine. Unless you're a zebra, I expect no complaints about this elegant, voluptuous slither of a bed outline. No, I just don't like the plants I put in it. That's a serious problem if you're a gardener—not so much if you're a zebra. (Hey, fun fact: according to Wikipedia, the paisley motif is often referred to as “Persian pickles” by traditional American quiltmakers.) Once the bed was cut and prepped—a lone, vestal pickle just lying there—I think I panicked at the sight of such a svelte swath of unplanted earth and just started interring anything within arm's reach. Flitting about the sordid process were several newborn and timid themes, vying meekly for my attention: a bed for cutting flowers! A bed for ornamental edibles! A small, reniform swimming pool! (OK, this is terrific, can anyone guess how the Welsh textile industry referred to the paisley design? Of course you can't. “Welsh pears”. That's what they called it.) The end product achieved none of these goals admirably, and is more or less a hodge-podge of whatever plants I had lying around. (They must have some funny looking pears in Wales. Or pickles in Persia, for that matter.) So I'd like to start over, if I could. Ctrl Z on this mess of desperate planting and Paisleyed miscellany. And to formalize the illusion, I'll just post the same picture for “Before” and “After” and pretend nothing happened in between. Just showing off Fencebroke's newest Persian pickle. What do you think?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!

"Because his feet were tired of hustling, he picked out a large clump of bushes and sat right down in the middle and ate blueberries."  -Robert McCloskey, Blueberries For Sal

Blueberry Hill it's not, but a modest bed of five blueberry bushes ('Duke', 'Earliblue', 'Sunshine Blue', 'Pink Lemonade' and 'Koralle') ought to provide a Tremendous Mouthful or two of decent berries. The only problem is, my feet are already tired of hustling. I'm not sure if I can wait for these to fruit.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nectarine Dreams

And the award for Fencebroke's first blossom goes to … Hardired Nectarine! Sorry, dandelions, you've been disqualified for stuffing the ballot box.

Despite being recently planted and heavily pruned, this plucky nectarine dug deep and produced no fewer than three of these gorgeous flowers (also no more than three, but that's beside the point). Since this is at least three times the production I was expecting this first year, I have consequently adjusted the projected growth of FPG's nectarine division upward. Assuming a yearly growth of 300%, I have concluded that, within a few years, my wife and I should be able to quit our dayjobs, support our family, and lead lives of elegant excess (in fact, we have appointments with several fine haberdashers and milliners this weekend; it's about time our hats reflect our projected lifestyle!)—all on the output of this one phenomenal nectarine tree!

We are now accepting pre-orders for crates of Fencebroke nectarines, although I must warn you that our entire projected crop of 2020 has been set aside for the state of California, which has prudently decided to import our fruit rather than compete.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gardening is Hard

I don't know how I failed to realize this before. Nearly five years I spent as a professional gardener—a grizzled green-collar mercenary battling my way through clients' front lines of horticultural revolt—but somehow the epiphany only struck this weekend, in my own backyard. I suppose this would be akin to a true mercenary, having spent a decade or so embroiled in bitter civil war and sectarian conflicts, suddenly reaching the astonishing conclusion that humans don't always see eye to eye—but only after returning home and getting in a tiff with his wife over how to properly launder bedsheets.

When I was a Gardener by trade, every drop of sweat—every pulled muscle, dislocated joint, and hideous sunburn—were chalked up as hazards of the job. Gardening was hard work, but in my professional career, all work has been hard. That's what makes it work. In exchange for 8 hours worth of pulling up sod and throwing my back out, I got a paycheck. But now, when it's on my own dime, I am starting to see that gardening as a hobby is hard; it's difficult; it's tricky; it's time consuming; it's grueling. When things go wrong, rather than getting paid overtime to make them right, I now have to go back to the nursery and spend more of my money (sorry, baby, our money) to fix things. If I hurt my back lifting a stump into a wheelbarrow, the doctor's bill shows up in my mailbox, not L&I's. If a section of lawn-edging doesn't look quite right, I have to stare at it every day, annoyed, until the irritation builds to an unreasonable, fiery rage and I tear up the plastic, throw it on a fire, and douse the whole yard with the ensuing napalm.

This gardening thing is kind of a bum deal.

Except that it's not. Whatever pain, expense, or frustration pops up along the way, I've never been happier than I am in the backyard with my wife and daughter. No matter the dirt, sweat, fatigue or Daisy-induced delays; no matter that it may only be for fifteen, exhausted minutes after getting home from a full day of real work, I still love gardening. Even if it is hard.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Beastbarrow

Every boy dreams of his first wheelbarrow. Right? From the moment we set eyes on that hot cherry red number down at the hardware store when I was 6, it becomes an obsession. We all wanted one for Christmas; we all thumbed through dogeared Sears catalogs circling and crossing out and then re-circling the perfect model; we all practiced our skills on that rusty, flat-tired relic out in the shed. At birthday parties, we'd choke down our envy when friends or classmates received their first beginner's barrow before me. Lucky jerks didn't know how good they had it.

It is the object of every generations' desire. What boy doesn't remember long nights at sleepovers? Taking turns with our pals describing my platonic wheelbarrow, its many features. Asking the important questions like: ash handles or steel? 6 cubic foot or something non-standard? What do you think of those fancy two-wheeled monsters, gimmicky or gotta-have? At dawn's break, our heads full of wanting, we'd finally doze off sharing dreams of The One.

We saved up, of course, all us boys. We saved my hard-earned chore money; we peddled odd-jobs; we sold lemonade; we scoured the couch and laundry room for coins. On weekends, we'd beg our parents for a ride to the hardware store, to drool over those floor models. Six months, we figured, maybe a year, until I'd saved enough to buy one. We circled a date on the calendar.

And then, somewhere along the way, that plink plink plink of carefully counted and recounted change faded away, and our dreams of wheelbarrows-to-come trundled along the way of most childhood dreams … and I grew up. Us boys forgot about those mighty backyard wagons and focused instead on girls and school and baseball and cars and pogs (there's no use denying it) and guitars and girls and taxes and houses and girls and kids and investment accounts and dietary restrictions.

Buried beneath it all, somewhere, was that waylaid wonder of the wheelbarrow.

Buried, but unearthed, at long last, today. Lest we overlook the many freedoms of adulthood for its many burdens, allow me to present Fencebroke's newest member—his strength is legendary, his temper (though surly) is true, he has a solid-core, never-flat tire and freaking steel handles. He is called Fireox, The Beastbarrow … and he is mine.
All hail Fireox!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Financial Report

News today from FPG's CFO: I am sorry to report that both our recent Rock Sale and last month's Dead Plant Clearance Event were utter failures; as such we have missed our revenue goals for the fiscal quarter ending—wait, how do fiscal quarters work? Ah well, there's a reason I became a gardener and not something useful.

What this means for the continuing development of the Gardens is that our operating budget is roughly equal to any buried change or scrap metal we find in the earth-moving process. Thus far, our coffers contain two and a half tire-irons, an old matchbox car, a surprisingly complete set of silverware, two dozen rusty nails, a screw driver, and a small pair of scissors.

We're saving up for a trip to the scrap yard, but until then we are forced to be thrifty and innovative in our use of tools and landscaping materials. For example: gas for the lawnmower is expensive! But, in a pinch, one of those hand blenders from the kitchen on an extension cord can work just as well. Probably. Bang. That's real savings right there.*

Or consider a retaining wall (oh, do consider a retaining wall). I wanted to build a short one to put the veggie bed up on a small terrace, but allan blocks or natural stone can be pricey—in that they have a price and so are not free, which places them light years beyond the aforementioned operating budget. (I don't even want to think about how many tire-irons it would take to pay for that kind of hardscaping.) So the ingenious solution I stumbled upon was to simply use materials found around the yard. The previous owner left behind lots of good stuff, so surely I could find something with which to build a retaining wall. But what?

Lo and behold: bricks! Old, leftover bricks work splendidly for a small, informal retaining wall. I couldn't believe the previous owner didn't want to take these with her! Well, you know what they say: one man's trash is another man's … masonry. So I rounded up all the bricks I could find and voila, I had a great dry-stack wall complete in no time. Now, unfortunately, I could only find three bricks, so the wall is a little patchy in spots. But at a total cost of nothing I'm pretty darn proud of the results. Check it out:

This retaining wall was built entirely with found materials!
*Who am I kidding, this is a bad idea. Really, just terrible. Don't waste your time attempting this. I just wanted to seem thrifty and innovative.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rocks 4 Sale

Wow! That's all I can say. I can't believe we're letting these babies go. That's right, this week only, we're making available to our most loyal patrons a select handful of authentic stone ... artifacts (well, stones anyway) unearthed in the construction process of Fencebroke Promontory Gardens.
You there! How would you like to take home your very own piece of gardening lore? Well this little potato-shaped number here is the very same rock that invoked a storm of foul language when it lodged in the tines of my digging fork! You can't put a price on that kind of history! What am I saying, of course you can!!! $39.95. Plus $9.00 shipping and handling. Plus a $14.95 … convenience fee.
Or how about this bad boy here? This near-boulder was buried in the exact spot I needed to put a fencepost. What are the odds? Well, now it can be yours for 3 payments of $98, plus another payment of … um, $98.
These prime specimens of local geology are just flying out the door, so be sure to claim yours soon! Not your typical fieldstone, despite what they seem, no sir, each of these rocks has been imbued with the very essence of Fencebroke. See that spot, right there? Essence, I tell you! $249.95 for … a dozen. A baker's dozen. Buy a dozen for $249.95 and get a baker's dozen free.
We have only a very limited supply of these mineral masterpieces—I mean it's not like they're found in every shovelful of dirt! (Maybe every other shovelful, but still!) Limited! Rare, rare, rare! They're certainly not piling up uselessly alongside the shed.
Plants die, but rocks are forever!
A rock a day keeps the doctor at bay!
Unleash your inner rock!
Buy them all and use them to make a fire pit—
actually, that's not a bad idea. Over on the side of the yard, there … hmm.
Nevermind, false alarm everybody. There's no sale here, these rocks are spoken for! The rock bubble has burst. Rocks are yesterday's—oh screw it, you get the idea. I have a fire pit to build!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mt. Sod

I have, in previous posts, referred to the blessedly blank slate of Fencebroke's existing landscape. This is a little more than something of a misnomer, and a terrific example of how easy it is to overlook little details when performing garden renovation/installation. For you see, a truly blank slate would be to have acquired an empty, dirt lot, at most in need of a quick rototilling before accepting with fresh happy soil whatever seed or root touched ground. In fact, what I failed to distinguish (despite years of experience, which should have better-attuned me to such technicalities), is that the previous owners did not leave the garden blank so much as they planted thousands upon millions of one specific plant of which they were evidently quite fond: grass.
Yes, indeed, the whole vast expanse of Fencebroke Promontory was choked with strong, healthy lawn, which is great if you like lawn, and not so great if you have aspirations to plant anything else, ever. The former case offering very little fodder for gardening, much less blogging, we were confronted with the daunting prospect of extensive sod-removal.
For anyone who has not had the joy of tearing a garden bed from a deadman's grip of thick sod, I invite you to come visit FPG for a hands-on, behind-the-scenes tour of our process. And by “hands on”, I mean here, take a garden fork, and by “process” I mean start ripping chunks from the burly turf with said fork, then use a hori-hori knife to pound off whatever topsoil clings to the roots. Repeat ad-infinitum. (Knocking the soil off is by far the most time-consuming step of this process; if you have bad soil/clay etc. to begin with, there's no great loss in skipping this step, but if you have anything remotely decent, it is important to reclaim as much of this top layer of soil around the root zone as possible, as it is the most ecologically complex and geologically scarce part of your garden.)
Surely, you think, there must be a better way. Well, there does exist a machine for removing sod—no, strike that, “machine” doesn't quite do justice here—there exists a mechanical demon for removing sod. I have employed the services of this great bucking, evil beast on several occasions in my professional career. In my opinion (and if you ever encounter the beast, please don't mention this; it would surely track me down in vengeance) it is an ineffective device, good for jarring loose your bones from their sockets and soul from your body, but generally cutting too shallowly into the sod to completely remove the more tenacious grass roots and deeper rhizomes. Plus, if you want to reclaim any of the topsoil, you still have to go through and manually pound away at the sod strips.
Together with my wife, (and to a somewhat lesser extent, our assistant Daisy) we are slowly but surely chewing away at this great task. We have successfully carved out small circles for the fruit trees, and are well on the way towards excavating a bed which will become our vegetable garden. That's a lot of sod. Where does it all go, you may ask? May I introduce to you the most inadvertent topological feature of Fencebroke Promontory: the ever-growing Mt. Sod!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Keeping Up

I've got this. No, really, I'm on top of it.
Spring is almost here and let me assure you—Fencebroke Promontory is completely ready for the season. Don't believe me? Shame on you. Look, I even put out the birdbath:

Yes sir, all of my potted plants, from previous apartments and rescues from work, are sited correctly and ready to be planted (I decided, after much deliberation, to go with a rather avant-garde design, which only looks like I just left them where they were, lined up along the fence. It'll be fabulous, trust me):
The Laburnum stump I began removing two months ago? It's, well, it's practically removed. Sure, the severed stump is still in the hole but how hard can it be to just pop it out and toss it in the yard waste bin? It's definitely not too heavy for me to lift. What, did you think I hurt myself trying to get it out and that's why it's still sitting there? Ha! I laugh. This is me laughing. No, I always hold my back when I laugh.
The Veggie bed is prepped and ready to plant. Yes, to outward appearances, it may seem like I got a third of the way into it and then gave up, but I assure you, it's—um, supposed to look that way. You know, the latest trend in urban gardening. Gotta leave some of the lawn in the bed … er, leave part of the lawn … fallow. It's complicated; you wouldn't understand.
Oh, and the Winter pruning is done. Turns out, nothing really needed it this year! What are the odds!?

The Grass is freshly cut and certainly not threatening to overtake our native stone ducks. This bit here is just a little grass I left as … habitat. Or something. Those Bluebells in the foreground are habitat, too. Ducks love Bluebells.
I even finished the gardening chores in time to get some structural repairs done. I was able to fix up that gate on the west side. It was far too neat and pristine before; now it has that proper, shabby-chic look, for a touch of Fencebroke rustic charm:

So, as you can see, everything is ready. Nothing left but to sit back and watch the season unfold. In the patio chairs … which are totally cleaned and set up, I promise.
Now I just need to step outside, for … something unrelated.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Orchard Has Been Labeled

Well, not really.
I still need some good, permanent labels to affix to the trees, for posterity (ha! Such technology does not exist! Every tagging, labeling system yet created will eventually fall off, decay, become illegible, or otherwise disappear as everyone who has tried well knows). So this is more of an online labeling session for all the countless readers out there who are begging to know what, exactly, I have planted in Fencebroke's orchard.
Well, not really.
No one was begging per se, but I could tell everyone was wondering.
So here is the roster of my fruity all star team.

In this corner, looking like mere stubs after some ruthless formative pruning, measuring in at just under three feet tall, are the mini-dwarfs! These babies are all grafted on super-dwarfing rootstock M27 which should keep them, even at maturity, at barely six feet tall! Don't let their size fool you, though, mini-dwarfs are used in commercial orchards in Europe because they pack so much punch in such a small space. Let's hear it for the little guys: apple varieties 'Liberty', 'Akane' and 'Karmijn de Sonnaville'!

And in the middle, forming the sturdy backbone of the group, we have the espaliers! Woo! Yeah! As mentioned in the previous post, these two were a housewarming gift from my parents. They brandish a different apple type on every outstretched arm (and look a little like policemen directing traffic, if you ask me). These include: Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, King, Jonagold, Spartan and Akane! That's a championship-caliber assortment, and if you can't find an apple you like somewhere in there, I don't want to be your friend.

And finally, anchoring the team in this corner, the only non-apple of the group, the outsider who promises big things: 'Hardired' Nectarine! That's right, I planted a nectarine! My Dad did some recruiting on this one, pointing it out from the Raintree catalog as an exceptional nectarine, which is supposed to perform well in the maritime Northwest. We'll see; I'm not signing any long-term contracts. But if it does thrive! Nectarines are not only the most delicious fruit of summer (this has been scientifically proven true, I'm pretty sure), but are also beautiful trees year round. It's possible we've landed a future superstar with Hardired.

I have also invited an old veteran to join the team: an Italian Prune, but we have not yet settled on agreeable terms (read: I can't find one cheap enough without placing another Raintree order and I don't want to pay more shipping costs). This old reliable plum is simply the best for eating fresh and for drying into prunes. Not the most attractive tree, but then not everyone is fortunate enough to have the looks of Mr. Pretty Boy Nectarine over there.

So that's the orchard lineup as I have it penciled in for opening day. Doubtless there will some late additions in the form of berries and other bit-players, but the core roster has been set.
Now we'll see if they're just a bunch of overpaid divas, or a true team of winners. I better go out and yell at them for a while; I don't want to start the season with a bunch of soft, out of shape trees.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Orchard Has Landed

It was opportunistic orcharding at its finest.
A week or so ago, in what could only be described as a face-slapping sign from the local gardening deities (doubtless impatient with my lack of any noticeable progress in their nominal realm), I received both a package from Raintree Nursery and a surprise visit from my parents, in the same afternoon. Both visitations happily resulted in bare-root fruit trees.
From Raintree (those fine purveyors of all things fruiting you can stick in the ground; seriously, if you haven't already, check out their catalog) this was my order of four trees I had vacillated over for the better part of two months. It turns out, the delay was all on my end, for once I actually placed the order they were incredibly prompt with delivery.
And from my parents, a wonderful housewarming gift of two (!) espaliered, combination apples. These babies, for anyone wondering, are the nifty offspring of sorcery and pomology: they are short, stout bare root trees with six different apple varieties grafted onto each trunk, the branches all aligned in a plane so that the whole tree can be sited flat against a fence, wall, etc. and not take up your whole yard. There is no better way to grow so many different apple varieties in such a small amount of space. Methinks my father sensed my growing anxiety over selecting only a few fruit trees and came up with the perfect solution. Parents are just the best.
So at that point, I had an orchard of sorts. The problem was: half of it was lying in a shipping box stuffed with newspaper, and half of it was propped up against the house in a black plastic bag. I do not need to tell you that this is not an optimal arrangement for long term orchard vitality and production. Nevertheless, such was the fate of Fencebroke's tree-fruit legacy for over a week. Because, you know, it can be hard to prepare, plant and stake an orchard while LIFE is happening, and RAIN and SNOW are spitting all over LIFE and BABY is spitting all over LIFE and WORK is flagellating BODY and TIME exists only in fleeting, three minute episodes. So I stared, with guilt and trepidation, at my precious orchard. I pictured its roots rotting, its buds falling off, just another casualty of modern LIFE.
But then, on yet another Monday afternoon initially written off to cold rain, just when I thought this orchard thing would never happen, the clouds unexpectedly parted, birds sang … and dirt flew. The next several hours became a blur of digging forks, spades and torn-up sod. Supervised by our pleased firstborn, Daisy, who perhaps sensed the unfurling of her expansive, landed birthright, my wife and I worked together, earnestly breaking ground at Fencebroke Promontory, and by the end of the day, an orchard had sprouted!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Clearance Event!

One week only! Special clearance event!
Save up to 100% on select dead and dying annuals, perennials and shrubs!
For a limited time, Fencebroke Promontory Gardens is offering unheard of closeouts on surplus and rejected nursery stock.
Picture yourself taking home one of these gorgeous, frostbit Euphorbias, only slightly dead! Not your cup of tea? Well, who wouldn't want this semi-not-so-hardy Loropetalum, now for a low low price of get-it-out-of-my-sight! Here, take 6 of them!
Whole flats of lovely groundcovers at fire-sale price. No, they weren't in a fire, they're just dead, Dead DEAD!
Or try one of our mystery packages: a handpicked assortment of unidentifiable bare twigs and dead leaf mush. You'll always wonder what these beauties used to be!
Our owner is out of his mind, but now you, the customer, can benefit from his inability to stop bringing home dozens of doomed plants from work! He thinks they'll pop right back when it warms up again! He's wrong! These plants are stone dead, every last one, and now they can be yours!
Flats of dead plants make a lovely addition to any yard. Line them up along the fence. Forget about them on the side of your house. Leave them in the garage! It doesn't matter, these plants won't know the difference because — you guessed it — they're dead! Tell your spouse they're just dormant. HAHA! They're not!
Come in early for doorbusters: buy-1-get-30-free deals on everyone's favorite New Zealand failures: Hebes, Coprosma and Phormium, oh my! What were we thinking!?
These ferns were supposed to be hardy! Beautiful when alive, there's no reason to expect otherwise when dead! Take them, please!
Save big on permanently deciduous Fuchsias!
Rotted? Frozen? Diseased? Neglected? We specialize in all types of unwanted merchandise; if it belongs in the yard waste bin, you'll find it here!
Folks, you just can't beat the savings when you buy dead. Don't waste your time paying the markup at retail garden centers for live product, here at Fencebroke, we offer no frills, no hope gardening at its finest—not to mention cheapest!
Hurry on by, these prices won't last!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Assistant

I realize that, to date, it appears as though I have progressed little (if at all) towards the much-hyped transformation of FPG. Let me assure you this could not be further from the truth! If I could, for a moment, offer you a quick peek behind the scenes here at Fencebroke's around-the-clock planning room, you would see a veritable hive of activity. Here I perch, as King Chief Lord Master Admiral of Garden Design, at my quarter-acre, reclaimed redwood desk: issuing orders, offering brilliant insight and being taken by periodic fits of creative genius while legions of assistants, interns and other underlings scurry to and fro in the hopes of fulfilling sufficiently their small role in my vision to earn a faint nod of recognition, a trivial flick of my wrist, which will be recounted for years hence to anyone who will listen as the crowning moment of their lives. Put simply, such a monumental endeavor of creation takes time, patience and the careful coordination of countless man-hours. Not to mention the delicate management of too many fragile egos, which crave acknowledgment but must, for the success of the Garden, remain subservient to my own.
Well, that's the idea anyway. On any given day, your sneak peek may reveal a scene that falls slightly short of this ideal, but it really is impossible for anyone to maintain such machine-like efficiency and brilliance for extended periods of time.
On an off day, for example, your back stage glimpse of Fencebroke may note as few as one assistant/underling/minion at my disposal, this being, of course, my 4-month old daughter, Daisy. Her ego is a particularly fragile one, requiring an inordinate amount of attention and reassurance, but the part she plays in my process is invaluable and becomes immediately apparent to anyone observing: she is here to make sure I don't get ahead of myself. Sure, I could accomplish a great deal more in any given day without her “assistance”, but most certainly the quality of my work would suffer. She, being a remarkably perceptive aide despite her youth, must have realized this early on. Whenever I hastily pick up a garden fork to remove some sod, she's there, saying, “Hey, Dad Master Admiral, let's just take a step back and think about this. Here, look, I'll just spit-up all over myself and we'll deal with that for a while. If you still feel like digging later on, have at it, but let's not do anything we're going to regret.” Or whenever I sit down at my drafting board to sketch some ideas, she'll gently remind me that, you know, sometimes it's better to just cry for an hour or two to really get those creative juices flowing. And don't let anyone tell you you can't yell and cry at the same time. The trick is to just let it all out. Then, by all means, pick up your pencil and start drawing. And sure, sometimes at the end of the day that means you've only drawn one little circle on your graph paper before it's time for dinner, but so be it. You'll have all week to think about that circle, to make sure it's the right size, in the right place. We'll revisit it on your next day off, unless, you know, I'm still a baby. Then baby stuff. But I like your circle, Dad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fruit Tree Paralysis

I cannot move. I can't lift a finger, much less a shovel, until I decide … and I cannot decide. The cornerstone of this garden — the anchor, the very backbone — is to be a small handful of fruit trees, carefully selected and placed for maximum vitality and production. Once these are in place, I'm convinced, the rest of the design will just fall into place.
So which fruit trees?
As a child, I blithely reaped the benefits of my Dad's orcharding hobby. Come Autumn, I had only to step outside and I was bound to fall headfirst into some delicious apple or Asian pear dangling from a loaded branch (and lest you think this is some sort of metaphor, I cannot count the number of times I actually thrashed my head into low-hanging fruit, and lest you think that is some kind of further metaphor, some of those apples were big enough to raise welts). I think there were around 100 fruit trees in all, dozens of varieties, rare and commonplace, some drooping with the weight of their bounty, some sulking and stubbornly barren. There was no dearth of options. The only difficult choice I ever really had to make, on those October patrols through the foggy orchard with my Dad, was at what point to stop eating apples in the interest of digestive well-being.
But now, now, there are hard decisions to make. I can squeeze only a precious few fruit trees into the confines of Fencebroke North (aka backyard) and so I feel enormous pressure to choose carefully. Each tree must pull its weight, must provide multiple benefits in one. It is not enough for an apple to be delicious; it must also be disease-resistant, compact, productive, versatile in use, long-lived in storage, and attractive, to say nothing of appropriate bloom time for pollination or harvest time for optimal, well, harvesting. Even the ability to imbue magical powers or cure old-timey ailments — while certainly a bonus — is not sufficient to guarantee a place on my roster. If this is to be my all-star assembly of fruity superheros (OK, that came out wrong) I have to consider every combination of talents, virtues and shortcomings to ensure a stellar cast — scratch that — the perfect cast. The permutations are endless; the task is daunting, overwhelming, herculean, in a word: paralyzing. And not at all hyperbolic, I assure you.
And so it is that I live like a lost soul. Every day, poring over my memorized, tattered Raintree Nursery catalog as if it were scripture: seeking wisdom, seeking guidance, seeking some overlooked tidbit of truth that will lead me out of this dark place. I call up my Dad for advice and for a brief moment, he illuminates the path, offering sage recommendations and observations from a lifetime of experience, but as soon as the phone goes dead, as soon as I glance at my madman's scribble of notes — crossed out, circled, underlined, bulleted, illegible gibberish — I am back to hand-wringing and second-guessing. And still, I have not placed my fruit tree order. I have not gotten out of bed, have not looked outside, have not lifted a finger. For I cannot move.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Master Plan

It's all coming together. My vision for the soon-to-be unsurpassed gardens at Fencebroke Promontory is incubating as we speak, growing strong and viable, safe and warm as I gaze out upon the wintery grounds from the comfort of my drafting room. And by wintery I mean kinda overcast. And by drafting room I mean utility closet.
OK, so I'm hiding inside, blogging, alongside the washer and dryer, instead of actually doing any garden work. Having hung up my professional gardening career in favor of slightly-more-upright employment at an urban garden center, I find I've lost my taste for elemental punishment. Too many winter days spent shivering for warmth, on hands and knees, clutching at a few more weeds with numb fingers, have left me scarred and none-too eager to brave chill and drizzle in the name of casual gardening.
So I stare out the window and compose my master plan; my blueprint for beauty; my grand scheme for grandeur; my opus of green opulence; my, uh, syllabus for sowing — OK, this is going downhill fast. How about I just give you a sneak peak of what I've got cooking so far? Ooh! My cookbook for, um — no, sorry, I thought I had something there. 
Anyway. We'll start out in the Western Meadows. Here, I will recreate the American prairie, with lots of grasses, wildflowers, and buffalo:

Give me a home, where the buffalo roam
Now, moving on to highlands of Fencebroke. Since this portion of the grounds sits on a natural bluff, I envision a crashing, five-story waterfall surrounded by my beloved native Northwest conifers. Several miles of hiking trails will wend through the lovingly crafted forest.
The deafening roar of a waterfall
Here I plan on taking advantage of an existing structure. This beautiful old barn, once properly retrofitted, will serve as stables for my thoroughbreds. I will set aside 10 acres or so for pasture and arena.
The Stables at Fencebroke
OK, this is really exciting. The exposure of this south facing slope is just perfect for my orchards and vineyard. The tasting room/gift shop for my award-winning ciders, perries and zinfandel will be carved into the side of the hill. I really should get started on this if I want to be bottling by 2020.
Tasting room coming soon!
Moving to the Northeast plains, I will go straight-up Versailles up in here. Clipped hedges, ponds, all that boring stuff I swore I'd never have. Just because I can.
And after the pompous baroque of the previous section, I will effect a somewhat ironic transition into a serene, meditative Japanese/Zen garden nestled into this natural glade. My own personal selection of Japanese maples will be flown in straight from Hokkaido.
Breathe in: one... two... three. And out.
And finally, leading from the villa to the gardens proper will be a long avenue of pollarded hornbeams. Visitors will either trot down the road in my antique, horse-drawn carriages or saddle up their choice of custom ATVs.
By horse... or by beast?
So that's what I've got so far; just a rough draft really. There are still a few things I need to fit in. For example: a moon garden, a sculpture garden, a xeriscape/desert garden — oh, and a small organic farm! I'll also need an area for cutting flowers, an herb garden, a 9-hole, links-style golf course — oh and for crying out loud where am I going to put my authentic, Victorian glasshouse!?
Clearly I still have work to do, so I guess for now it's back to the drawing board for me.
Aaaand, next to the drawing board there's still plenty of laundry that needs folding ...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Blank Slate

The home buying process is fraught with uncertainties. Anxiety like insect bites. Doubt like body blows. Not least among these is the gut-punching fear that you are making the wrong decision. What if this is not the right house? How do you know you are shackling yourself with the right lifelong commitment of resources you don't have? Some people make a list of things they absolutely need in a house. For me, that list was a short one: some kind of outdoor space in which to plant a garden, the more of a blank slate the better.
But really, the best way to know you are making the right choice is to have no other choices. Try this: first consider asking the owner of the condo you've been renting to suddenly sell the unit out from under you, this will reassure you that you should indeed find a new place to live. Next, consider living and working in a city with exploding rental prices, such that securing a mortgage somewhere in a more distant, outlying community would in fact be cheaper than finding a new apartment to rent. This can help a lot with the decision to buy vs. rent. Then, in the severely limited time frame you have to find a new home, the best way to narrow down your options, I've found, is to have your pregnant wife go into labor while viewing an open house. Once this happens, you'll be amazed how confident you are that you have found the right place.
The villa at Fencebroke is adequate for our small family's needs — though it utterly lacks any sort of foyer, drawing room, ballroom, library, conservatory, map room, panic room, smoking room, dining room, swimming pool, walk-in closet, walk-in swimming pool, linen closet, closet doors for existing closets, or proper bowling alley (in a pinch, the single narrow hallway makes a serviceable, single lane alley, but using it as such has thus far done little for the resale value of the home). All of these were casualties of urgency in our home search. What it does have, fortunately, is the one thing on my must-have list: front and backyards that are almost completely unplanted — that is to say, blank slates.
The accidentally coppiced, ailing and ancient Laburnum and Lilac represent the extent of the previous owner's gardening legacy. That is, unless you count a dozen or so malformed, coyly hidden garden statues: cracked birds lurking below eves; spurned, half-buried cherubs pouting around every corner; St. Francis-of-the-weeds; a small family of ducks standing creepy vigil at the front door — all of which doubtless have stories of their own, which will be found and told in time.
So there are few limits, really, to what I can do here, garden-wise. It is a blank canvas ready to be splattered with a hundred conflicting visions, themes, crackpot ideas, cracked pots, and practicalities, all pent up for years with no outlet, all begging to be realized. All on a budget of … well, let's just say “garden tomfoolery” didn't quite make it onto the monthly budget. If/when we plant a vegetable garden, we could conceivably shoehorn garden expenses into the grocery budget (a shoehorn being an invaluable tool for budgeting these days), but until then, I will be a fiend for freebies, nursery rejects and garage sale finds; I will be ever watchful for easily-propagated plants proffering their buds, rhizomes, and offshoots to casual passers-by; I will be grateful that I work as plant manager at a local independent garden center and am in superb position to rescue nursery stock otherwise sentenced to the compost heap; I will exhaust my resources and pursue every lead in the name of transforming this desolate lot.
All that being said, it's now been 2 months since we moved in and I've yet to break ground. It turns out that looking out the window every day at a blank slate is a bit intimidating. Didn't I use to get paid for this? Eh,  I'll get to it, eventually. For now, though, I'll just keep piling up flats of distressed, frostbit, slightly diseased and unwanted plants along the fence in hopes that a few will survive long enough to be planted.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Christening, or: I could have sworn there was a promontory around here somewhere

Long years the gardener with no garden. Raking others' leaves. Pulling others' weeds. Pruning others' trees. All for a paycheck. Walking street corners hustling my craft, flashing my Felcos to those willing to pay. Soaked in cold Northwest drizzle and gloom, thinking: better the chill of rain, better the vicarious thrill of clients' dirt on my hands than recycled air and cubicle walls closing in. How gladly I would sell my body's warmth for a chance to sink my fingers into your soil.
That's me: putting the whore in horticulture. What choice did I have? No land of my own. Keeper of no garden not born of 1.5 cubic foot bags and dumped into cracked discount pots and buckets on whatever meager balcony or porch a city's lease provided. Coaxing sickly beans and carrots from too-small containers in too-little light; cursing those with land and no inclination to work it, those with sunshine to spare and and no leaves to catch it. But no more!
At long last onward and upward (well, onward and Northward anyway). Out of the urban stacks of strangers, pets and furniture; away from their 12-month contracts and landlord lieges. Onward into the cinder block sprawl of this post-war widows' suburbia, with its 30-year contracts, bank lieges, and — most importantly — backyards!
So it is that, clambering to the rooftop, I survey the grounds of this manor as though from a sweeping promontory. I gaze out over the small patch of empty lawn wrapped in broken blue fence and see only the garden it will become. I see a home for my long-captive potted plants; I see my daughter picking apples in the fall; I see my wife cutting Dahlias for bouquets; I see myself reminding my wife that she promised to dig up the Dahlias to bring in for the winter; I see myself digging up Dahlias to bring in for the winter.
Oh, and I see no fewer than five stray cats who seem to think the future gardens of Fencebroke Promontory are to resemble nothing so much as a litter box.
For now, I'm off to chase cats. But stick around, for soon … a garden!