Saturday, November 18, 2017

Putting the Garden to Bed

In Vancouver BC, we have such mild winters - except last year! - that one could continue gardening through most of the year.  But at this time of year, most plants have slowed right down in their growth, and dropped their leaves, and so it is a time to "put it to bed", do some tidying up, turning off hose bibs, removing garden hoses, and covering up pottery and other items which could be damaged if there were any harsh freezes.

The weather has been quite wet, so I've not been motivated to do more than the basic cleanup.  Not to mention, I am discouraged every time I go out to see the devastation the raccoons have unleashed on the lawn, digging for the juicy white grub of the chafer beetle.
This is the second year that they have dug up a large patch of lawn, rolling the turf back like carpet.  I have carefully replaced and stomped and watered the lawn dozens of times this year, and finally I've given up.  Next year I may try applying those nematodes which are supposedly able to reduce the number of chafer grub, at least.

I've been leaving my ceramic garden totems outdoors these past few winters, just wrapping them in plastic so they don't get too wet.  (I can't wait until next year, I have lots of new totem pieces and hope to build a few more totems, maybe a taller one too.)

I should do the same with the glass light fixtures (seen in the distance in the above photo).  But they are so broken by now, that I have a thought to just pull them out.  I don't think I even went out to enjoy them once this past year, so I don't know why I bother with the lights anyhow.  But they sure were pretty while they lasted.

Some of my other pottery, I'll just take a chance on it again, staying out in the weather.  This little face planter is actually open-ended at the bottom, so shouldn't build up water or ice, and I don't want to cover it and smother the black mondo grass growing in it anyhow, so it will just stay out.

This little house will stay out also.  After all, it has a good solid roof on it, which should protect it from rain, and snow shouldn't affect it either.

Here's a closeup of that little house.  It looks beautiful among those vibrant red sweetgum leaves.

I guess I forgot to take a photo of my gunnera.  Every year, I fold back the huge leaves, once the frost has softened them, to cover and protect the delicate crown.  This year, I have 3 very strong crowns, and there were a good dozen big leaves to fold back.  Anyhow, the photo above is the berries from a patch of lily of the valley.  I don't remember having so many berries in previous years.

For my final photo, a seed pod from my tree peony.  They don't all develop to have large shiny seeds like this one.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tough Year for Gardening

I love gardening, and harvesting the bounty of fruit, lavender, mint and other beauties from the garden.  But I'm always humbled by how unpredictable the outcomes can be, and glad that my livelihood does not depend on the harvest.

Last year I had such a huge harvest of apples from our regular (not espalier) apple tree, that I was drying apple chips continually for weeks and weeks.  This year it had so few that we didn't even pull out the ladder to pick them, I just picked up the apples as they fell, and used them for making juice.  Nearly every one had a worm in it.

Two years ago, our Japanese plum tree bore hundreds of pounds of plums, and again, I had to make an effort to give them away to friends and family, and find uses for them.  This year, it had maybe 50 or 60 plums, and one ripe one fell, I ate it, and I tested a few others on the tree, and they seemed almost ripe also.  So I was planning to go out on the weekend to pick them, but when I arrived, the tree had been stripped clean.  Likely our local squirrels, who were also noticing that they were ripe.

Similarly, we often get a huge haul of grapes (this post shows only half the 2014 harvest), and I make juice, usually a combination of grape (which is quite tangy) and apple (which is mild) - see this post from 2014.  Today I discovered the vines quite battered and pulled from the shed, as it seems the squirrels have been climbing the vines, and some of the bunches were already stripped clean.  So I picked the remainder today, even though they are not as ripe as I would like :
That one basket, and not even very full, was the complete harvest.  So I've been making juice all morning, combining the grapes, and the apples (from both the upright tree as well as the espaliers, both of which were full of worms) :
I also went out and picked more blackberries, and added those too, so the juice is coming out quite pink :
As I'm feeling lazy, and we already have lots of jars of homemade juice in the pantry, I'll only seal into jars the juice which I don't think we can drink in the next week or so.

I have been canning quite a few times this year already.  We had a huge haul of red currants earlier this summer :
...and we came to the end of our mint syrup (it is great on ice cream, in lemonade, and even just mixed with water to make a minty drink).  So I made quite a few batches of mint syrup, as well as the currant juice, and some lavender syrup too:
On the gardening side, I had too many run-ins with wasps this year.  First I discovered the hard way (as I was stung in the hand) an in-ground nest near our Italian plum tree, and managed to kill off that colony, after unleashing a full can of wasp killer into their nest, and then following it up with a few hours of drowning the following day (as the poison alone didn't seem to do the trick).

Then I was stung in the back as I stood at my Japanese plum, not even doing anything.  And chased several times by what seemed to be a black wasp, who buzzed around my head, and didn't hesitate to follow me all the way across the yard, as I ran away.  Then I stepped into the crocosmia at the base of our butterfly bush, behind our Japanese plum and cherry trees, and was viciously attacked by a wasp who chased and stung me in the back, the arm, and the back of the head.  I waited a few minutes and tried to go back for my tools, and he stung me in the hand and chased me across the yard again.

This time, I decided not to be a hero, and called a pest control company, and they sent out their expert in wasp suit, who located a nest of the black wasps behind the fence, hidden in some bushes.  He neutralized and removed it, and sprayed the area with poison powder, to kill off any lingering wasps.

About a week later, I was lopping branches from our cherry tree in that same corner, and suddenly was surrounded by black wasps.  Then I saw the nest, which was up in a branch of the cherry tree, about 7' off the ground, about the size of coconut (without husk).  So I called the same pest control company, and they removed it also.  This removal was free, as it was in the same area where I was reported that I was stung.

Today I noticed lots of yellow wasps hovering over the ground.  It is a common practice this time of year.  But a few took interest in me as I walked by, so I was cautious and retreated each time.  I've been stung far too many times for my comfort.

Anyhow, such is gardening and life.  Unpredictable, and we take the bad with the good, and hope for better next year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still Gardening, Mixed with Pottery

I may not be blogging much about my garden lately, especially since I started my pottery blog, but I am still gardening (except now while there is snow on the ground).  And adding pottery to my garden.  And using plants from my garden as inspiration and impressions in my pottery.

I have two ceramic totems in my garden, and quite a number of pieces waiting for me to create another totem this summer.  These two serve dual purpose of decorating the garden, and protecting my dear Davidii involucrata (dove tree) when I drag the hose around the garden :

This little face planter rests in a shady spot in my garden :

This lantern was originally planned for the garden, but after so many hours creating it, and a number of people warning me not to take a chance leaving it out in my garden, I still have it inside the kitchen.  But I am still considering finding it a place in the garden one day.  At least for a party.

I have made a number of ceramic vessels and plates decorated with leaf imprints.  I love the textures.  This one is decorated in maple leaves :

This soda fired jug was also decorated in maple leaves.

These oakleaf hydrangea leaves were not from my garden, but made a beautiful platter.

This piece was decorated with leaves from my garden, and eventually will go back out into the garden, as part of a future totem :

I made two large ceramic masks - "tree men" - who adorn the inside of the post on my back deck.  I wish I had photos to share, but am too lazy to download/email them from my phone to my computer.  But here is one of the masks.

I still love gardening.  And I am very much enjoying pottery.  And where both pottery and gardening collide, it is about as close to heaven as I'll enjoy in this life.
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