Ferny You Should Ask…

Flowers and fruits are the focus of many a blog, but in the cool, quiet corners of the garden, ferns flourish.  Fronds unfurl curling upward as they unwrap from their coil.  Sword ferns, native to North America, favor shade as they fearlessly stand guard beneath the orange tree.  Asparagus ferns are fond of climbing and twining, sending out long straight shoots.  Within a fortnight, feathery emerald leaves should follow.

Southern Sword Fern ‘Nephrolepis Cordifola’

Gian Chain Fern ‘Woodwardia fimbriata’

Asparagus Fern reaching for the fruit tree

Fern about to unfurl

Other Worldly

Mystery Solved: It’s a Squirrel’s Nest

Peanut Tester

I photographed a nest last month, high up in the orange tree.  There was no sign of activity so I  assumed it belonged to a nocturnal mama, most likely an opossum.  This week, purely by chance, I looked up to see a squirrel enter the nest.  How I wished I had my camera!  I’m fascinated by what looks like a paper bag at the bottom of the nest.  I’ll have to dig out some binoculars so I can get a peek without getting any closer than I already have.  It’s such a compliment when nests appear in your garden.

According to A Squirrel Place, “Squirrels are usually born in the early spring. The average litter consists of four. This varies with climate and location.”

What have you seen nesting this spring?

Squirrel Nest: March 25, 2012

Squirrel Nest: April 19, 2012

Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause It’s Concrete

A Hard Day's Work

We never intended a major do-over of the backyard.  It was nothing to write home about, but it was our little postage stamp of a garden on our suburban, percentage-of-an-acre lot.  I spent hours pulling out ivy, trimming back overgrown shrubs, and hiring professionals to prune tall trees.   When my son was two he helped me plant annuals along the fence.  I would coach “dig the hole, put in the plant, add some soil” and he would repeat back, “…put in the oil.”  Mike gave me a gift certificate to a local nursery one year, and together we picked out annuals and perennials.  I poured over my beloved Sunset Garden books.   Life in the garden was good.

Then we remodeled.  If you’ve embarked on similar projects, you understand the phenomenon of one thing leads to another.  We extended the house by a mere 185 square feet, and with that the garden was lost:  Our beloved almond tree, diseased, had to come down.  Grass was trampled, paint brushes cleaned, nails dropped.  The electrical panel had to be enlarged, which meant damage to the siding.  Siding had to be replaced which meant removing some shrubs.  At the end of the day, what was left of our garden was a sad mess.

We hired a landscape architect who designed a beautiful garden, and we selected stone slabs to replace the existing poured concrete.  It was a greener option, allowing water from the irrigation below to bubble up and water the ground cover.  We spent the extra dollars to purchase “select” stones; code for bigger pieces will cost you.  To this day I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but an unsupervised stone-layer proceeded to break those large stone pieces into smaller chunks.   The designer was angry when she saw the work and demanded of us “is this going to work?”   After nearly a year of remodeling we were suffering from a serious case of decision fatigue. So…we cried uncle.  Yes.  Yes, it’s fine.  It’s fine.  Really.  And we thought it was.

The patio was a flop.  The irrigation below only worked for half the stones.  The roots from the neighboring pine tree lifted and broke some of the stones; others were placed too far apart, creating ankle-twisting hazards as we maneuvered our way around.  The table was constantly tipping to one side and the chairs had to be carefully arranged and re-arranged every time you sat down.   I replanted the ground cover on three different occasions, pulling weeds as I went.  The weeds would take hold again, as if to point out who was boss.

So, eight years later, we’ve filled up our proverbial piggy bank and hired the talented J.P. Bergez.   We asked J.P.to incorporate the stones into the design so that we could re-purpose them in a more practical way.  We lived with the greener alternative for seven years, but practicality was about to win out.  Don’t hate me ‘cause it’s concrete.

A Crack in the Fence

Fine arts photographer, Paul Hood recently posted these stunning photos on Facebook entitled “Ten Minutes in the Backyard.”

I love taking photos in my own garden, but only dream of approaching the artistry of his work. With Paul’s permission, for your viewing pleasure:

Secret Garden



Crack in the Fence

Fig Tree

Images used by permission (all rights reserved). Photographer, Writer and Spiritual Counselor, Paul Hood