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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Hole in the Ground

We realized last night that we were having plumbing problems. I was upstairs working playing on the computer, and doing laundry, and Nigel called up to me "The downstairs toilet is making a lot of noise."

"And not draining right."


Whenever the washing machine would drain, the downstairs toilet would bubble and burble.

So, this morning we called the plumber (Southwest Plumbing) and told them our tale of woe, and they came out a little before noon to fix it. Which involved snaking the drain via an access pipe that is in our front foundation bed. We used to wonder what that pipe sticking up out of the ground was for. It turns out that probably all of yesterday while I was doing laundry, soapy water was overflowing into the foundation bed. I was inside and didn't notice. The pipe was capped. No, the pipe used to be capped. When we went outside this morning with the plumber to check it out, the cap was on the ground beside the pipe, where the water welling up into the bed had forced it.

But snaking that pipe didn't help. The snake went backwards into the pipes under the house, in our crawlspace, which shook the house, instead of out toward the street, where the plug was.

So the plumber went into the crawlspace under the house, through a small munchkin-size door under our back porch. He had two snakes, one that was quite long, and another smaller one that was about 50 feet, which is long enough to get to the street from the front of our house. He couldn't fit the larger, longer one through the access door into the crawlspace. And it turned out the clean-out was, like, welded shut or something. So he had to install a new cleanout under the house in the crawlspace. And he snaked the pipes out to the street from there.

But it still didn't work. The pipes weren't draining. He needed to dig that access pipe up (the one in my foundation bed) and see where it went. And what was wrong with it. And why it wasn't draining.

That's how I ended up with a hole in the ground, surrounded by Caution tape.

And a big pile of dirt on tarps.

And dug-up shrubs.

And some buried perennials.

And some lovely lawn art painted on the grass. Fortunately, they all start with the word "No." As in "No PSE" (Puget Sound Energy) "No C.B.L." (City of Bonney Lake) Meaning it's ok to dig to China there.

Aren't they pretty colors? I like color in the garden, but I prefer that it come from flowers or foliage.

They're coming back tomorrow. And they're bringing a camera to stick down in the pipe.

Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flowering Right Now

Since the last day of the NWFGS I have been wracked by a bad cough that just will not let go of me. I thought maybe I felt a cold coming on that day, but I tried to deny it to myself. But since then, about a week and a half ago, I have been coughing. Some days I have little to no energy, and very little appetite. (You'd think I would have lost weight, but noooooo, that would be too much to expect).

My dad used to say "Look out, casket, I'm coughin'" -- a silly play on words that amused him.

Today the sun actually came out for a while, and it didn't rain. The sun enticed me out to take some pictures of the few flowers I have in my garden.

There are quite a few Hellebores.

This one might be Red Lady.

Ivory Prince

This might be Red Lady too. I got one last year, but can't remember where I planted it.

This one is called Tutu. I got it at the NWFGS.

I have a few Cyclamen coum flowers.

It looks like I have lots of baby Cyclamen too. Last year's flowers must have dropped some seeds.

I have a few pretty primroses. I like this one with its pink picotee edge. The slugs have been chewing on it. I must remember to buy more Sluggo.

This vibrant blue primrose really stands out.

I have one little patch of snowdrops flowering.

Aren't they cute?

Mahonia x meadia 'Charity' is flowering for the first time since I planted them two years ago. I hope I get some fruit from it later this year. I hear birds love the "grapes."

BTW, I removed word verification from the comments on my blog. I've had such a problem on other blogs that use it, the Captcha image that they use is so hard to make out. I don't think it's my old lady eyesight either, I've heard this from others as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't Be Chicken -- Enter Timber Press's Chicken Garden Giveaway

Book publisher Timber Press is hosting a giveaway of a chicken garden start-up kit to draw attention to their new book, Free-Range Chicken Gardens, which includes the following:

Click here to go to the Timber Press website to enter. But hurry, it ends on February 17, which is this Friday.

Writer and free-range chicken guru Jessi Bloom, just before her talk at last Friday's NWFGS

Free-Range Chicken Gardens was written by Jessi Bloom, who did a two-part talk at the recent Northwest Flower and Garden Show. I attended the first half of the talk last Friday, and she was a very good speaker. I also met Jessi Bloom briefly last summer at the Garden Blogger's Fling here in Seattle.

Timber Press has sent me a copy of the book to review, which I'll do in a future post. I'm looking forward to reading it because according to all the blurbs about it, the book deals with more than just how to care for chickens (there are actually plenty of other books out there that do that). It also covers how to integrate chickens into your garden, which is one aspect of chicken keeping that has worried me. How can you create a garden that they will work well with and not destroy?

(Some of my readers may know that I have been challenged by my husband to lose 40 pounds before he will let me get chickens. I'm still working on it, but it's slow going. I haven't lost heart though. I had a busy, crazy fall, and the holidays were rather bumpy, but I think I'm back on track now.)

Anyhow, if you're interested in keeping chickens, go to the website and enter the contest!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shopping at the NWFGS

There are literally hundreds of vendors selling stuff at the show. Some of the items are rather tangential to gardening, like gutter shields. But then there are loads of plant vendors, and garden decor, and tools, and, and, and...

Glass garden ornaments are very popular in this part of the country. The PNW is home to famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, who was born in Tacoma. He has done art intallations all over the country, and the world, including the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. There are lots of glass garden ornaments for sale all over the NWFGS, but in my opinion, the best is Barbara Sanderson, who runs Glass Gardens Northwest.

Readers may recall I bought some art from her to put in my garden back in the summer. Well, on my first day at the show, one of the first places I went was her booth, where I bought three of her "Glacicles," similar to the clear ones in the pot in my next picture. Mine are teal. It's hard to see in the picture, but they are very prickly. I'm planning to install them in the garden in a tight cluster, in hopes that they will look kind of like an agave.

She also makes pond floats...

...and colorful wavy leaves



and wavy icicles with lights in them.

I'm always on the lookout for a good birdhouse with lots of character. I was tempted by some of these, but they didn't hit just the right spot with me. I'd like to find one made out of reclaimed barn wood, with lots of found objects on it. I saw some like that many years ago, but didn't buy one, and have always regretted it.

These have a lot of character

This one too

This comes close to what I'm looking for, but is a little too new-looking.

There are several booths I plan to check out one last time tomorrow when I go back to the show. When I first saw these strange ceramic pots at last year's show, they were really off-putting. But they're kind of growing on me. Some are totally bizarre, but there's something about the aesthetic that draws me. But they won't really fit in with anything else in my house or garden.

I can't really see putting plants in some of them, but a brain coral would fit right in. She also makes intriguing tiles, which could fit in as an ornament on some of the cement pieces I've been working on lately.

WooHoo! A chicken!

There are a couple of antique/junk vendors there, with some interesting pieces. This looks like it's made of doors, with a shutter laid across the top.

I like these old hose guards

And this little section of short fencing (chickens!)

How about a chicken clock?

I would love to have this life-size gazelle with her nursing baby, but not for almost $3,000.

This giant rooster was big enough to ride like a horse

I like this wood shed by Bob Bowling Rustics, who makes all kinds of stuff out of reclaimed materials.

I could find a spot for this rusty pot, but I doubt I could get it home.

Well, I'm going back one last time tomorrow, to finish my shopping. I don't want the show to end with me regretting that I didn't buy that one last thing that I can never find again.

My Second Day at the NWFGS -- Display Gardens

I arrived at the NWFGS a little before 9 a.m., so I would be there when the show opened. I figured that way I could get a good look at the display gardens, and maybe manage to take some good photos. Unfortunately, I didn't get good pictures of all of them. They keep the lighting in the display area so dark and theatrical, it is hard to get a good photo. If the flash goes off, then only things within about two feet of the camera are well-lit. Without the flash, the shutter speed is so slow that it is hard to hold the camera steady. I know -- I should learn to use the camera on a setting other than auto. Some day, maybe, when I've had enough sleep to spare the brain cycles required to concentrate and learn.

And some displays -- well -- I just wasn't impressed enough to try hard enough to get good photos. The truth is there's only so much you can do with forced bulbs, grasses, firs and deciduous shrubs and trees that haven't leafed out yet.

This display, called "Specimen Foray" was one of my favorites. It's a mix of native trees and plants enclosing a circle of stone seats and a fire-ring.

Here it is from another angle. Some day I hope that my back garden has this sheltered, enclosed feeling, rather than the "Look at us in our back yard, gardening and sitting on our patio" ambiance that it currently has.

And directly in front of that path was this lovely specimen of a tree.

I liked this garden too (except for the cheesy, painted styrofoam backdrop), called "Redefining Andante." At various points throughout the day, a pianist/violinist duo would appear and serenade the crowd.

To the left of this was a raised patio with seating (sorry, no photo). It looked like a nice place to sit and have morning coffee or a meal, feed your koi, and listen to your very own musician employees/slaves. FYI: When no one was seated at the grand piano, it played itself.

This next display was called "Rock and Roll Meets Heavy Metal -- The Convergence Zone." Water pours out of the gutters into a small pond, while the little yellow fan blows air at a lethal-looking metal sculpture, making it twirl.

Here's another view.

Well, from here on, I'm giving up on trying to sort out what each display was called, since the photos I have left are an eclectic mix, and bear little true resemblance to the descriptions in the show program. I hope you find something inspiring in at least one of them.

Not the most practical chicken coop -- a converted VW bus. I hate cleaning my car, and chickens don't live in it.

I did like these big stone plinths marking the entry to this walk-through garden (wish there were more that we could actually get close to and/or walk through)

I liked the use of red in this garden
On the whole, I find myself wishing the show would do away with themed displays. It seems to me that it results in rather tortured designs, as the designers try to force the theme to work with their design. It leads to an over-emphasis on hardscape and decor, when I would much prefer to focus on plants.

Does anyone seriously want to ruin a nice set of drums by letting water drip onto them?

I heard that next year they are going to be based on movies. I wonder who will get The Wizard of Oz? After all, Seattle's nickname is The Emerald City.

I still have the vendor area to cover. I did some great shopping at the show!