Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring has Arrived, There will be Gardening

Here in the Piedmont region of Georgia, warm weather has allowed us to turn our thoughts to gardening. Actually we've been at it for a couple weeks now. We've been quiet about it because it just seemed rude to rub it in to people well north of here.

Many years ago Julie requested that I make her a potting bench. I ran into a friend that just happened to have in his possession an old porcelain covered steel sink with drain boards on either side and an apron type back splash, an absolutely perfect device for a full service potting bench. Just imperfect enough to use for such a cause, but plenty good enough to be serviceable for several more years. I purchased the sink from him and saved it from the fate of being nailed to a tree on his property by the banks of the Flint river and seeing the rest of it's life being used for cleaning fish. Of course that would have been a noble use for an old sink as well. Alas, it languished in the loft of the garden house for some years. How long? Well I'd rather not say as that would be quite embarrassing.

We experience a fall invasion of lady bugs some years. This was one of those years. A few lady bugs are cute, a couple hundred outside can help keep aphids off your day lilies, but thousands invading a structure looking for a place to over winter is a problem. Now before you reply about how beneficial lady bugs can be to the environment let me explain something. Thousands of any kind of bug is a problem in a structure that humans intend to inhabit. These are actually lady beetles that are an oriental variety brought here by our all knowing government to benefit agriculture. It's working out about as well as the introduction of kudzu, and silver carp. To all those people that have spent years fighting the spread of kudzu on their property, I feel your pain. There is no telling how many hours I've spent this winter vacuuming lady bugs into a shop vacuum.

But I digress. I think we were talking about potting benches before I went on my rant. A potting bench is not fine woodworking, Frankly it's not even finish carpentry. Okay it's painted framing with a sink built into to it. I have Julie's potting bench constructed so we can raise a window and connect the installed sprayer to a garden hose. The sink drains into a bucket on the lower shelf. When finished you simply take the bucket to the nearest plant that needs water and dispense the water. Simple, and easy.

Julie is quite pleased with her potting bench. So much so that you would think I had constructed a fine piece of furniture for her. Nope, like I said, painted framing  with a sink on it. This is one of those times where if you really listen to your wife you could save yourself a lot of work.

So why is there a picture of another potting bench? Our neighbor Patty happened by for a visit just after I had completed Julie's potting bench. Patty is also an avid gardener and was quite interested in Julie's potting bench. One week later she had located her own vintage sink and the following weekend I found myself constructing yet another potting bench. 

So I procrastinated about building Julie's potting bench for an undisclosed number of years and now over the span of about 2 weeks I've created two potting benches. Life is funny like that. Makes it's interesting I think.

Patty's sink is an even older cast iron sink with the very high back apron. I'm glad we've put this sink back into to use. It has a nice retro look that was just begging to become a functional sink again. On both these benches the slat boards on the ends also contain a plastic mortar tub underneath to catch extra potting soil. The tubs are on slides that allow access for filing pots with soil. I used the small size mortar tubs available at your local Homeous Depotamus.

And now to what's happening in the garden. If you've read this blog over the years you know a post about gardening or even cooking is not unusual. Julie is an avid gardener and I have to admit I am a willing accomplice.

The Cherokee rose is one of our favorite early spring plants. At one time this plant was growing on a trellis close to the entrance of the garden house, however it ran so amuck that it begin to grab at our clothes as we were entering or leaving that structure. We would cut it back dramatically only to have it right back in the path 2 weeks later. We finally moved it into the edge of the woods to do territorial battle with the wisteria that grows rampant in the trees. Who's winning? It's too early to tell.

Speaking of Wisteria. The foliage that looks like purple grapes hanging from the vine on top of the pergola structure is actually wisteria  blooms. If you sit under the pergola you can hear a constant hum of bees extracting nectar from the fragrant purple blooms. The oak leaf hydrangea on the ground is emerging at a rapid pace this time of year and will supply white flowers when the early spring bloomers are long since past.

Our azaleas are putting on quite a show this spring. Some years seem to be better than others for azaleas. Maybe it was the mild winter. I can only imagine what Augusta National Golf club will look like Master's week, which I believe is next week.

As a small child, and all my life I have heard gardeners in the south referring to the phlox pictured below as "thrift". I have no idea how this came to be unless this was a plant that was shared freely between gardeners and was therefore a low cost acquisition of a beautiful early spring ground cover. In our part of the world this plant says Easter is here, and it reliably resurrects itself every spring in time for the celebration of Easter Sunday. The only plant that blooms earlier are jonquils, and the mention of daffodils leads us into my next comments.

For many years Julie has wanted to visit Gibbs Garden in Ball Ground, Ga. We decided this year was the year we would go. Besides a very extensive Japanese garden that is worth the price of admission on it's own, they only have 20 million daffodil bulbs growing there. Yes I said 20 million. I won't try doing it justice with a phone picture. Go to their website at,  Gibbs Gardens

Gibbs Garden has to be seen in person to be fully believed and experienced. Let's just say it was well worth the drive.

We had a large line of thunderstorms move thru our area last night. This morning I remembered something Julie's Dad said to me after a similar night of storms many years ago. Ovid shared his name with a greek poet, was very well-read and had his own way with words that I very much appreciated. For this post I'll use his comments for my quote.

"that was quite a large storm for such a small town"
                                                                                  Ovid Shepard