Monday, May 9, 2011

Introducing Vinnie & Shakira

Shakira and Vinnie
Vinnie just raised her beak from the hibiscus and spat a chunk of bark mulch a third her size onto the floor.  She's digging holes again.  All day long she's either digging up the dirt in the greenhouse pots or shredding the inside of the pretty little white bird house we bought her some weeks ago. There is a strange ecstasy lighting her beady eyes as she works.

Sometimes she naps and you think she is dead, but no she is resting. Soon she will begin again.

Vinnie is our female parakeet. Shakira is her mate. Shakira's day flaps between cheering Vinnie's deconstructions, trying to lure her out of the birdhouse, and attempting to consummate their relationship.  

This is all a very loud and messy business; and very unlike my previous bird experience minding Omega and Alex, also known as the Hartke-Webbirds, last summer. Omega and Alex spent their days in a large and airy cage. Vinnie and Shakira roam the greenhouse.

I assumed this would be charming. Instead, another whim has gone awry.

The Coming of the Birds began last December.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ugly Gardens Four

The Main Plot
Just how long has this garden (cough) been moldering around the corner? I swear it just materialized.

While a mildly eccentric collection of lights has been roped around a frontal tree for years, the display has never seemed compelling enough for a close inspection.

Just look what I missed!

Behold the bier-shaped tree box with its mysterious alter to the solar gods! Several signs proclaim  allegiance (or advertise someone's line of work).

And the main plot with its planters with suspicious looking greenery and a Christmas ball and miscellaneous statuary and  ... what IS all that stuff? What does this MEAN?

Methinks someone has been doing some serious tripping for a very long time. 

The next door neighbors, with their pretty little garden and so tasteful array of Spring flowers and bulbs, must be right pleased.

Wrapping the Room

Not My Home*
Growing up I disliked the color green so intensely that I dreaded (and quickly dropped out of) the Girl Scouts. That ghastly dress, you know.

While I still can't wear it, my home is filled with it. Not blaring girl scout uniform green, but the lovely garden shades of trees and shrubbery: Our living room is green, the kitchen cabinets are green, the master bedroom is green, the ceiling in the upstairs bath is green. We just (more-or-less) painted the front of the house green.
What rooms are left (there aren't many) are filled with greenery, like the black and white solarium-wintergarden-aviary with its palms and the (rarely flowering) hibiscus and my free-flying parakeets Shakira and Vinnie (Vinnie's the girl, by the way. Who knew? And now it suits her. She's such a thug).

But then there's the foyer. Over the last 28 years the walls and ceiling grew a network of cracks and peeling chunks from traffic in the alley alongside the house; from construction of a collection of very expensive townhouses in the old schoolyard behind us; and from 100 years of sloshing water out of the claw foot tub in the bathroom overhead. 

The foyer has been my most prominent example of hanging a little ivy -- diverting attention from an eyesore. To obscure the damaged walls I sponged burnt sienna over baby shit brown in random daubs (I could have written dabs but isn't daubs lovely?) Up the walls I went and over the ceiling and up the staircase to the second floor landing. More cracks? More paint. It really was quite theatrical. Visitors thought I had deliberately created the look of a long ago ruined Italian villa.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some Springs....

Some springs are simply better than others. They begin earlier and last longer.

Every five or so years, a few blistering days will arrive early in March, spurring on blooms that one does not expect until much later in the season. Then the proper cold snaps back, preserving those early flowers even as the later buds appear and swell and burst; everything hanging tight like the contents of a florist's fridge.

So that you have a day like today when a walk to the market resembles a grand garden show, where mismatched mates clamber over each other some whispering, others bellowing for attention. 

The clematis and honeysuckle and azaleas and dogwood (haven't they been astonishing?)  should have paled by now, but they're still resplendent against their beds of ivy and pachysandra. There are even a few malingering tulips, brilliant leaves hanging by threads.

Meanwhile, the roses (at least a week early) are rioting over garden walls, elbowing aside the equally premature peonies, as the iris stand stately, aloof to the hubbub.

As one might expect, the scent of it all is near overwhelming.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Holidays are Over

One has to restart the blogging somewhere, and window box renewal is as good a place as any.  For the past three months I've been sitting here with my feet on the desk ignoring the spring bulbs (the red tulips were gorgeous) and the flowering of the cherry (the annual show is increasingly spectacular) and suddenly the mock orange is about to bloom so...

I am feeling particularly self-congratulatory since I have spent a grand total of $25 (plus tax) to plant out the five boxes this year.

The hot pink geraniums wintered over in my solarium-winter garden - aviary (yes! new news!) along with purple and variegated wandering jew. Ivy fills the box corners year 'round and I left my little cheats -- the fauxberries and such which will cheer the boxes when I forget to water and/or something drops dead.

So my only purchase was five green potato vines to grow front and center in each box; vines that given some months and absolutely minimal care will swag the front of the house in a poison green ruffle of leaves. 

While I rarely flack products I am called to do so because I recently received this item called a CobraHead Weeder ( which is the niftiest tool in my gardening arsenal. I got it for free because a few months ago I became a member of the Garden Writers Association (an event that caused me to immediately stop writing about gardens). However, as this tool offset somewhat my dues, I was happy to receive it and use it and so now guilt-driven I am mentioning it.

But I would NOT mention it if it wasn't damn good.  The pointy end of the thing, which I guess would be the cobra's snout, made amazingly quick work of turning the window box soil. It was so easy I had to remind myself that this is usually a sweaty chore, what with the tangle of old roots and rocks and oddities inserted to discourage pigeons and encourage moisture and whatnot -- all of it congealed into a rather unyielding mass after a winter of sitting there being largely fake and therefore unwatered.

If you go to their website there's a how to video showing the tool in action.

I would show you mine if I had had the foresight to make one.

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