Soon to be renowned!

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.