Posts Tagged ‘landscaping’

Photo Evidence: Spring Coming to Vermont

March 13, 2011

Amid wet snowflakes, cold raindrops, and a low gloomy overcast, I went outside, and out of desperation, tried to get some work done around my house in St. Albans, Vermont.

I dug up the thin layer of unfrozen ground near the shed, that needs to be completely dug up and enriched with good dirt. For flowers. That will allegedly bloom when spring allegedly comes.

The very first, tentative sign of spring at my St. Albans, Vermont house after a long, long snowy winter. Photographed today, March 13, 2011

Hell, I got 20 minutes of work in before I hit solid, frozen ground and gave up.

But wait!  Right up against the sunny side of the house. A fresh, tender green shoot! It’s the first bit of a crocus that I planted last fall. It’s not much, and it’s certainly not blooming yet, but it’s the first sign that maybe spring will get here.

The Snow Goes, the Snow Comes, Drearily

March 6, 2011

With my growing list of things I must do outside to fix my yard  in St. Albans, Vermont and build up the landscaping, I was heartened by the rain and thawing that got rid of half my snow yesterday and last night.

I took this picture of my snowbound shed on Wednesday, before the thaw. I'm itching to repair and paint it, and landscape around it.

There’s enough bare patches out there to start get rid of unwanted brush, tidy up things, start prepping my derelict shed for a paintjob and some landscaping around it, and get ready for transforming the property in earnest.

There’s hope, yes?

Well, no. All the snow that briefly disappeared is coming back tonight, and then some, so it’s back to square one. We’re going to get eight to 12 inches of  heavy, wet, new snow.

March is the cruelest month. You get ready to go outside and attack your projects with gusto, only to be slapped in the face by a lingering Vermont winter.

By this morning the snow had retreated from around the shed. At this point, when the rain stops, I can begin work around it. But no such luck. A foot of snow is due tonight, delaying any kind of work.

So, I’ll wake up tomorrow back in my dreary winter routine. I’ll throw out my shoulder again clearing the driveway and hefting the snow onto huge piles. I’ll have to hack my way through the frozen snow and ice to get into my truck, and gingerly drive down the skating rink-like roads.

After the snow stops falling tomorrow,  I’ll look in vain for just a bit of warm sun to start the melting process over again. It’s going to take a long time to get rid of it, especially given the forecasts of continued cold weather and maybe another snowstorm Thursday.

Unlike the last two springs, the seasonal landscaping drive, both for myself and my clients, will get off to a very late start because of the snow.

I wonder if I can buy some napalm to get rid of the snow?

Nature Helps My Pruning

February 19, 2011

Last night, our very welcomed February thaw ended with tremendous gusts of wind that rattled my house in St. Albans, Vermont and howled through the trees outside. With a full moon dashing in and out of clouds racing across the sky, the combination would have been perfect for a horror movie.

The mess under my willow tree this morning. About half the branches and twigs came down earlier this winter, the other half blew down last night.

When dawn broke this morning, there was no horror outside, but quite a few fallen branches on the lawn and driveway that weren’t there last evening.

It’s messy looking, but the broken branches are a good thing. Some of them were dead, ugly limbs that had been clinging stubbornly to my otherwise robust weeping willow tree, and had been taking  a bit away from the willow’s splendor.

Others branches were parts of dead trees that are located too close to the house, or power lines for me to safety chop down. So it’s a welcome sight to see those dead hulks slowly disintegrate.

A tangle of branches and grapevine that blew off the trees last night and onto my driveway. I just threw them aside onto a snowbank for now.

Still other branches were parts of extensive, tangled grapevines that were clinging to the trees. Last March, I cut huge grapevines at their base. They were bigger than the circumference of my wrist.  I couldn’t tug all of interlocking mess of grapevine from all of the trees, so there they hang, looking ugly as hell. Now they’re starting to slough off the trees, and that’s a great thing.

I won’t mind at all picking up the mess of branches. The wind died down early this morning, but picked up again this afternoon.  Maybe some more ugliness in the trees will fall, eventually leaving me with a lush green, healthy looking collection of trees this summer.

One can only hope.

Jerk of the Week: He Poisoned Auburn’s Trees

February 17, 2011

Here’s a real loser for you:

A guy named Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., 62, was arrested Thursday, charged with poisoning trees up to the age of 130 years old at Auburn University.

Harvey Almorn Updyke, 62, is accused of poisoning trees at Auburn Univeristy.

Reports are Updyke is a rabid fan of Auburn’s archrival Alabama, so that’s why he allegedly did the deed. Some media reports said Updyke saw Auburn kids defacing a statue of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant, so he decided to get even.

The Birmingham (Alabama) News published Updyke’s affidavit on its Web site.

He supposedly used this nasty stuff called Spike 80DF, and experts give the trees a slim chance of surviving.

Updyke denies the charges. But if he is the culprit, what was he thinking?

Among the things Updyke should have considered: Is a football rivalry worth killing trees and putting yourself in jail for up to 10 years?

If he gets mad over football games, I’d hate to see how upset he’d get if, say, somebody broke a window in his house or got in a fender bender with him.

What does killing the trees accomplish? Alabama and Auburn will no doubt continue playing football.

Anyway, talk about taking things to extremes. Bet he’s not president of the local garden club. And I’d hate to hire him as a landscaper.

Makes you feel like going to his house and sprinkling his shrubbery with a nice big does of Roundup. But that would be stooping to his level and killing innocent plants, wouldn’t it?


Darlusz Says It’s Too Cold

January 23, 2011

“What we do out here? It cold. We stay indoor ’til da spring, mebbe May,” Darlusz said

That was Darlusz Zabagaiski, the Polish frog who graces our presence here in St. Albans, whining about the cold.

At noon Sunday, Darlusz ventured outside in his hat and looked at the temperature. It was five below. He wanted to go indoors immediately.

Frankly, the Arctic air induces whining in me, too, especially since the forecast calls for it to get to about 20 below tonight. But we have things to do. I’ll go stir crazy indoors.

So I took Darlusz outside with me, briefly, to check out the weather and get a bit of sun on our faces, even if the noontime temperature today was five below.

“Why we live here anyway. Da winter, it too much work. All da clothes to put on, get da snow off da truck, start da truck, warm da truck up. It too mach. Come, we go to Barbados,” he said.

“On who’s dime,?” I asked, the steam from my breath curling up over our heads. Besides, this is the price we pay for living in paradise when the weather is warm.”

Darlusz let that settle in for a few minutes. “How long we stay out here anyway? We know it cold. We go inside. Hot chocolate. You got all doze garden books you study. We look at dem, da picture of da flower, da green leaves, day cheer us up. And den you know what you plant when it warm up.”

With a nice hot chocolate in a Gary Rith cup, Darlusz reads over some gardening books on a frigid Sunday to dream of greener, warmer days, and help me plan what to plant when and if it ever warms up out there.

As usual, Darlusz was right. No sense in torturing ourselves with the cold. We can’t do anything about the frigid air. We curse it, but it doesn’t go away.

So Darlusz and I went inside, fixed some hot chocolate, looked at the garden books, and  dreamed of warmer days to come.

The warmer days are coming, right? Someday?

Roses are Red

January 4, 2011

The sky turned cold and gray and bleak today again, as it is the middle of winter.

The thaw is over. Thoughts must once again turn away from continuing with the landscaping around my St. Albans, Vermont home.

So, I turn to inside views of plant life  to cheer me up and sustain me through spring.

Luckily, there’s some roses currently in my house. 

I snapped a couple pictures to share

My Mixed Emotions About Big Winter Thaw

January 3, 2011

This morning I woke up and found pretty much no snow on my St Albans, Vermont lawn. It had been covered with about eight or nine inches of snow just three mornings earlier.

Blame a New Year’s weekend thaw, which brought temperatures as high as 50 degrees. It’s been above freezing since early Friday morning.

My backyard Sunday morning. Just 72 hours, nine inches of snow covered the yard, but a big thaw got rid of that.

I have seriously mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I’d been watching the snow cover gradually build up toward a point where I could go snowshoeing.

On the other hand, the sudden lack of snow gave me an unexpected chance to do more to get my landscaping and yard in shape.

As the snow melted Friday, I focused on cutting small trees and brush I disliked. Saturday, with much of the snow gone, I could start cleaning up the mess left  when I burned my brush pile in mid-December.

The snow had been on the ground came in December, before the ground froze. So today, with the snow gone, I could dig in soft earth. Usually in January, the soil is frozen into the consistency of concrete by now. Not this year.

Today, I was out there about six hours. I turned the big compost heaps, dug out holes where I will transplant trees, expanded my vegetable garden, and used the sod I took up from the garden expansion project  to shore up an embankment by the brook in front of the house.

The warm weather really was a winter gift. I knew I had to get stuff done this weekend, because weather seems to go in opposites from season to season.

Last year, on New Year’s weekend, we had a foot and a half of new snow. But last year, the snow melted early, and by mid-March I was in the clear to attack the yard.

That probably means this year, the snow will stay on the ground until April. So I went crazy in the yard  this weekend to avoid losing an opportunity to stay ahead.

Tomorrow is supposed to be colder, but no snow yet. I also have tomorrow off from work, so I can do more things around the house; I just can’t do stuff that needs unfrozen ground.

So I can cut more branches that are wrong, take the rocks I found over the weekend that would contribute to more stone walls I will build and store them in back of the shed for now. And I can do other tasks.

By midweek, forecasters say, we’ll have a couple inches of snow on the ground to make it look like winter again.

Meteorologists also say there is a chance, just a chance, we’ll get a large snowstorm by Friday night or Saturday. If that happens, I can forget about the yard for now and turn my attention back to the snowshoes.

Wet, Dark, Cold Vermont

October 24, 2010

As if to prove my point in the previous post, today was dark, drab, damp, and dreadful, if you like nice weather.

Darlusz checks out frost-bitten, dead flowers and nearly leafless trees under an ominous, cold sky Sunday in St. Albans.

Personally, I didn’t mind so much. It gets quiet this time of year. The tourists are gone. The birds have flown south, too, so theres no activity out there. It’s just solemn, subdued.

Darlusz, the Polish frog who lives with me, shivered in the chill as I worked on my fall yard chores. It won’t all get done, but today was a good chance to do as much as I could.

“No bugs here to eat. Depressing out here in da yard. Let’s go in, stay warm,” Darlusz said.

I was plenty warm, digging holes to plant bulbs, working on my stone wall, cutting errant branches and saplings, you name it.

“You could help with the work out here and stay warm that way,” I suggested to Darlusz.

“I no dig. Dirt too cold now. Look, da rain and da sleet starting again. Dis no good,”

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said. “I don’t mind if you go inside.”

Darlusz took me up on the offer.

I savored the subdued season on my own outside after that. I could feel winter at my doorstep, and working around the yard made me feel prepared for it, though nothing I was doing bolsters my defenses for winter.

It just made me feel better, out there under the low gray sky.  The damp, cold, still air  seemed to salve my lungs, give me energy and cut out the distractions.

Yes, I like nice, sunny weather. But November-like weather has its pleasures, too.

An Excellent Planting Problem

October 21, 2010

“Well, Darlusz, where best to plant all these bulbs,?” I asked, as I looked over probably 80 or more bulbs for spring flowers.  They were mostly daffodils, some crocuses, a few other flowers that my sister, Lynn gave me for a birthday present.

Darlusz the frog with some daffodil bulbs that are ready to plant near my stone wall.

Darlusz, the Polish frog that lives with me, looked into all the boxes of bulbs. “Jeezs, dares a lot ov dem in dare. You have flower all over da place next spring.”

“Yeah, this is perfect problem to have; deciding where to put all these bulbs. I’ll scatter them in various places around the yard, so we’ll get splashes of color everywhere,” I said.

Even with this many new bulbs, I won’t have nearly as many flowers as I eventually want. The bulbs my sister gave me are all early spring beauties. I’m going to design some gardens that will eventually have blooms all the time from April to October.  It will take time.

Besides, you can never have too many daffodils and crocuses anyway. My goal is to one day have nearly 1,000 daffodils in the spring.

“Boy dis iz work,” Darlusz said, as he helped me dig the holes for the bulbs, put the bulbs in place, sprinkle in some stuff to make the grow well, throw in a little compost and fill the spots with good topsoil.

Darlusz inspects a load of rich topsoil I bought for bulb planting and for fill behind my stone wall.

“But it’s fun,” I said as Darlusz nodded in agreement.

“I have a new appreciation for the work and design expertise it takes to make some really beautiful gardens,” I told Darlusz. 

Eventually, some day, large swaths of my lawn will go, eaten up by flowers and vegetables. I don’t like to mow. This batch of bulbs will help me get rid of some piece of lawn, so that’s another plus.

This is the prime time to plant bulbs. I’ve got crocuses against the sunny south wall of the house, where they will bloom early and give me some very early spring cheer. Daffofils are scattered in clumps near the south side of a new stone wall I’ve built. More are going along the driveway, and out by the road.

“Dat plan iz goud,” Darlusz said. “You plant da bulbs where everybody see the kwiaty in da spring,” he said, using the Polish word for flowers.

I’ve got about half of the bulbs that Lynn gave me planted. I’ve dug a few more holes to get ready to plant more, with a goal of having everything in by Halloween.

Landscaping: Spring Planning Already

October 9, 2010

Darlusz Zabagaiski, the Polish frog who lives with me, outside to watch as I worked outdoors on a glorious October day, the chilliest so far this fall.

Darlusz checks my progress filling in an area behind my stone wall. The area will eventually be a flower garden.

“You dig so much. You go to China? You tink gold dare in dat dirt,”

“No, I’m thinking about spring,”

“You sick da cold already. Winter long way off. You not survive if you tink like that,” Darlusz said.

“No, I’ll survive the cold alright. If I want to keep making the yard more beautiful, I’ve got to think about spring now. That means transplanting, getting areas ready for spring planting, and planning what I’m going to do come April and May,” I said.

Darlusz wishes Rhoda, the long-suffering rhododendron, luck growing in her new home not far from the shed.

“So what you do now,?” he asked, as I started digging behind the stone wall, which I’m almost done building.

“Digging up the rhododendron,” I said.

It is a struggling ragged, barely living rhododendron, It’s been there, near death, at least since I bought the house in November, 2007.

But the thing keeps hanging on. It’s a plucky little thing I’ve named Rhoda, for obvious reasons, and because it’s a tough, tenacious thing, like Rhoda Morgenstern on the old ’70 sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Darlusz sits among some peony plants, thinking about where I should transplant them to.

Anyway, I dug it out today because even if it lives, it just won’t do where it was. I tranplanted it in a barren area near the shed. As I planted Rhoda, I fed her a little plant food and compost.

She’s bruised, battered and vulnerable to deer. So her future is in doubt.

“I think Rhoda survive. Not pretty at first, but she be nice some day. I know,” Darlusz said.

There’s some peonies in an overgrown area up above the house. “Day nize, doze peonies. Day just need da sun in da summer,” Darlusz said.

“True, they can’t stay there, but I haven’t figured out where to transplant them. That’s a consideration for the winter,” I said.

Speaking of winter, Jeff bought me three excellent flower gardening books. My eventual goal is to have lots of flowers, with plants staged so there’s plenty fo blooms in the yard from April until October.

Darlusz checks out the books Jeff bought. All three publications will be instrumental in helping me plan my gardens.

“You read doze books in da winter, right,?” Darlusz asked.

“Yep, they’ll help me plan my next moves,” I replied.

By March 1, all three books will likely bristle with dozens of yellow Post-It notes sticking out of interesting pages.

It will take years before my yard looks the way I want it to. But the only way to progress toward a beautiful property is think spring in October, even if a frost and freeze is forecast for tonight.

“You have nize ogrod some day,” Darlusz said, using the Polish word for “garden.”

“I know, it will just take time. Every year will get better,” I said.

To that end, my sister Lynn and I jointly ordered LOTS of daffodil bulbs and today she announced they arrived in the mail. I’ll need to arrange to go to her house and pick them up, and make sure they’ll all planted this month. The more daffodils, the better, in my view.

They’ll bloom nicely in April, which seems so long into the future. That will be part of my reward for planting now, and planning over a long, cold winter.

“I dream tonight I catch da bugs in da garden az I hide in da beautiful kwiaty,” Darlusz said.

“Kwaity” is Polish for flowers, for those who are curious.