Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nursery Tour #1

It started out with a Google search -- Puyallup Garden Centers (not nurseries, that gets me garden centers mixed with nursery schools, not the most useful list). I spent yesterday plugging the addresses into my GPS and doing a little tour. I was the only fool out there, at both places I was their one and only customers. I didn't realize sitting inside my warm house that it was barely above freezing yesterday. The nursery workers were all dressed in parkas and warm, woolly gloves. And there I was wandering around with my camera in a sweatshirt, breathing out in puffs of mist!

Anyway, I got some good photos, and at the second place I went, I hit the jackpot. I found two of the shrubs I've been looking for to put in my front foundatuion bed (also some perennials I couldn't resist, LOL)

My first visit was to Todd's Nursery in Puyallup. They had a lovely koi pond, with a cool bridge and a waterfall, and some large, very hungry looking fishies.

Also, they had acres of shrubs and small trees to choose from.

There was a sweet doggie carrying a ball around in his mouth, who really wanted to play with me, and wouldn't hold still for a picture.

They had a nice display of heucheras. I was very tempted.

And I saw a water feature that I want! I've decided with this garden, I'm not going to have a pond, I'm going to have a disappearing stream. It looks like this rock has a hole drilled through it, the water bubbles up at the top and runs down into a reservoir below.

I think I'll save the photos of the second place for another post. That's enough for today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Lately I have been on a quest. For a very important compost ingredient -- horse manure. You can make compost without manure, but it's one ingredient that really helps get a compost pile started, so I like to use it. Used coffee grounds are good too, also grass clippings. But a good source of manure is a thing to be cherished. I got a name from something called the Pierce County Manure Share List, hoping to be able to score some horse apples for my compost. It was a horse farm about 30 minutes away, in a town called Enumclaw. I went there on Friday afternoon, hoping to load some wonderful horse manure into my little Prius.

Well, when I got there, it was a one-track gravel road off the main road, across a gully and up a hill, through a tunnel of trees. I sat there and contemplated it for a few minutes. Could my little Prius handle it? Well, I'd never know if I didn't try, so off I went.

It didn't take long for me to realize that my little Prius was not a 4X4. In fact, in some circles, it's barely a car. I mean, it's basically a big battery connected to a lawn mower engine. How many times did the "You're skidding" light come on before I decided I was doing something very foolish? I don't know but I gave up trying to climb that rocky one-track hill. That meant I had to back down it in a straight line, trying not to end up in the gully. I did it, but not without some very white knuckles. Phew! Well, scratch that source off my list.

So, my next bet was craigslist. I searched today for free manure, and found someone who had a big pile of it sitting in her driveway, giving it away for free. Also about a 30-minute drive from me. I found my way there, and fortunately, she was not up a gravel road. I did have to go down a narrow, windy road, but at least it was paved! I filled up five lovely five-gallon buckets. SCORE! Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Big Dirty Empty Spaces

I have two of them, that used to be filled with stuff the previous owners left behind, that I couldn't use. One was a kids outdoor playhouse. Beautiful, well-built, if I had kids or grandkids, I'd love to have it. Nigel calls it a Wendy House.

Thanks to craigslist, now that space looks like this:

Big. Dirty. Empty. I posted the playhouse a little over a week ago, in the free section. I got so many responses! It was so big and heavy that moving it was going to require a platoon to get it intact over my fence. I didn't want to have to do any work taking it apart myself. I made plans for one woman to come and get it, but she backed out. It's hard to know who to pick that will turn out to be reliable. My second choice worked out great! They came last weekend to check it out, and then came back yesterday with tools to take it apart. It took them about three hours. I'm glad they were handy, cause they're going to have to put it back together!

I don't know what I'm going to put in that big, dirty, empty space, I'm just glad the playhouse is gone.

As it turned out, they also had two big dogs. So....they took this too!

Now I have another big empty dirty space where it used to be.

And I know what's going in there. A compost pile!

The Previous Owners Had Kids!

I was just out in the garden taking pictures for my records. I was walking along, and saw this near the rocks bordering the back bed.

 All the garden decor that I brought here from my old garden is still packed up, stored in the shed. But I have a head start, thanks to this.

Harvesting Dahlia Seeds

This year at the rental house I grew Dahlias in pots, started from seed back in March/April. Now they are starting to die back, and the flower heads are ready to be harvested for seeds, so I can grow more next year. This was my first year growing Dahlias; now that I am in Washington, I can grow them in the ground and leave them over the winter because the winters here are so much milder than in Massachusetts. I was not interested in growing them back East, because they would have needed to be dug up every autumn  and replanted in the spring. I'm too lazy for all that work!

Anyway, I popped the spent flowers off the tips of the stems, and stored them overnight in a cabinet, hoping they might dry out a bit. They didn't, but I decided to harvest the seeds from them anyway.

Here is a picture of the spent flowers:

Here's what the mature seeds inside looked like, once they were separated from the chaff:

The term chaff is a botanical term meaning "all the useless bits." When I first opened the flower head, the seeds were still connected to the chaff. I needed to separate them, so they could dry out and be stored without getting moldy. When I first separated the seeds, they were waxy and a bit slimy.  They tended to stick together, to each other, to the chaff, to my fingers, to the plate.... They looked like this:

I just fanned them out and picked them apart. Some flower heads had a lot of seeds, some had only a few. Sometimes they were all around the outside edge of the flower, sometimes they were in a cluster in the center. It was a treasure hunt.

Sometimes there were what I think of as "fake me out" seeds. They look sort of like seeds, but not as big, and they didn't have that thicker part on one end.

They look like seeds, don't they? But here they are next to the real seeds:

These seeds are from the pretty red and white Dahlia, called 'Harlequin', that is pictured at the top of the page with my title. I also saved seeds from a yellow and pink one, a red one, and a streaky red, pink and white one. I want to grow loads of these next year in my new garden.