Garden Downsizing

The longer you live in a home, the shadier the landscape gets. This always baffles folks and they stare at me not quite sure what to make of that simple observation. “Look up,” I say. They do. “Are the trees taller?” “Was your neighbor’s home there before?” 

It dawns on them that this is true, that trees grew, houses were constructed, fences of green now separate homes, and like our own aging, it snuck up on them. What was once a new home with a blank slate for a landscape and full sun, is now an older home with mature trees, and lots of shade. The echinaceas quit blooming years ago, but they were busy raising kids and didn’t notice until this very moment with me–the garden coach–standing in their yard, our necks bent backward, faces looking up at a canopy of trees.

I sense what

Hiking With Platypus

Five years ago, I would have titled this column “Hiking with Big Dog.” Prior to that, it would have been “Hiking with Fruit Loops.” This gives you both a chronological history of our family dogs and an insight into our dietary preferences. But I’m also reminded of the privilege I’ve enjoyed over the last 15 years: hiking with my dogs. I do it almost every day. Rain never stops us, though extreme cold will keep us parked next to the wood stove.

Platypus, the best dog.

Fruit Loops —an Aussie with blue eyes—hiked with me during the early years of my marriage. During the middle years it was Big Dog, the Airedale who could get turned around in a pen.

Now, with my

My Picket Fence Garden

Some of my clients just want an audience. I know how they feel. When I lived at South Turkey Creek, my garden was beautiful, but it was for the benefit of one–me. We lived off an old logging road, off a secondary road that was so far out a friend of mine brought milk and bread when she visited. Our home wasn’t visible from the road, and my garden was only seen by those who drove down our driveway, and they had to get through a locked farm gate.

So, I get it when someone calls for an appointment and I drive up and think, they do not need my help, but I am getting the camera out because oh my gosh. Sometimes, it’s a legit question, or they need another eye on the garden because it feels “off”. But when my sole contribution to the hour

My Back Porch

 

B.B. Barns, my place of employment, has a container specialist. Her job is designing and installing containers for clients. Of course, everyone wants that job because it sounds so cool (it is). I’m the garden coach. I help people with their landscapes, everything from what is in it (plant identification) to how to take care of it (a lot of pruning lessons) to plant diagnostics (Japanese beetles or voles almost always) to small designs (limited to the front foundation or perennial borders mostly). I don’t help with containers. Instead, I ask our container designer for tips. She really is the best.

But once in a blue moon, a client will ask me, “What about my porch?” They mean, of course, what should I do to make my porch more inviting?

I’m not our container specialist, but I do know the number one reason a porch doesn’t

The Gardener is Thankful for the Gardeners

I rent a little brick rancher. It’s a lovely home and I am happy here, sans a garden. I dream of a space for a Cinthia-designed (i.e. a quirky mix of formal and not-so-formal) garden but until, or if that happens, I am blessed to live near a park.

Aggie and I walk to Silvermont Park almost every day. It’s a couple of blocks from our home. It took us awhile to discover it because I thought it was just a big, old house. But, one day we went exploring and found a vegetable garden, woodland garden, butterfly garden, shade garden, native garden, and walking paths. Even free doggie bags (I make good use of those).

There is always something in bloom, little surprises tucked around corners and quiet spaces for reflecting. I am grateful to the crew of Master Gardeners I often see there. They volunteer their time

Five Years of Blur and Two Timelines

Fortunately, my daughter-in-law remembers everything because the last five years, for me, were a blur. I’ve worked two jobs most of the time and three jobs a lot of the time. When I finally got a full-time, benefits, paid vacation days job, I slowed down a bit. Enough to notice that I really couldn’t say what had happened in my 1/2 decade.

I knew the big stuff. My husband left for a woman he said God gave to him. God confirmed the gift of this woman through a Scripture verse and a dream, according to my ex. (The good thing about somebody saying something like that to you is this: 1. You entertain the notion that perhaps God did exactly that. After all, God can do whatever God pleases. And, if he did give your husband a new wife, well then you’re left speechless regarding the matter. 2. You

Top 5 Plants for Indoor Toxins

In 1989, NASA teamed up with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) to study the affects of houseplants on indoor toxins, with a goal of improving the quality of indoor air. Their goal was cleaner space station air, but their findings proved useful for our well-insulated, energy efficient homes, as well. On this rainy, winter day, it’s good to know our houseplants (3 per room is recommended, but 1 makes a difference) are helping to keep our homes free of toxins while we sip hot chocolate with our feet to the fire.

Below is NASA’s chart of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), or household toxins, common to most homes. We all know being outside in nature is great for stress reduction, and filling our lungs with fresh oxygen, so bringing plants indoors just makes sense. Now, with NASA’s study, it makes even more sense.

Houseplants can absorb unwanted