Updates and Visitors

I’ve been working hard to get several updates made to my garden and yard before a couple groups of friends were scheduled to visit. On top of the usual cleaning, weeding, organizing, and planting, this spring I started on a new raised bed, a new set of perennials on a new side of the house, and a new piece of garden art.

It was a lot of work and things aren’t finished yet, but some new vegetables are already coming up in the raised bed and I’m  enjoying the way it all looks. The highlight is the new bottle tree taking shape on the stump of the apple tree at the front of the side yard. I’ve been thinking about this sculpture for a little while, and I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect piece to go atop it. I found a fantastic concrete raccoon holding an apple. I shaped the stump somewhat so it would look less stumpy, I carved space on top for plants to grow, and I started adding bottles. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like now:

I was so excited to find such a trashy good raccoon sculpture. I found it and the rotary hoe blade under it at a local architectural salvage store. The paint job when I found it was pretty uninspiring, so I repainted it. It has such a perfectly gleeful raccoon look on its face that reminds me of the meme:

It’s always great to have garden visitors in real life in addition to my virtual garden visitors, even though I always pressure myself to try to make everything look perfect. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, feel free to stop by, too! Among the things my guests brought was this photogenic magnolia bloom:

For those unable to visit my garden in person, here’s a quick tour of many of my garden beds and plants. The overview: my other concrete raccoon now looks classy in comparison, I added more tree jewelry, the hostas are happy, a hollyhock is blooming, I added a little flapping wind spinner, I’m trying to grow Alpine strawberries, the red hydrangea is blooming, and I picked the garlic scapes. (As always, click on any photo to see the larger version.)

Another bit of art that’s now out is my collection of goofy garden markers created by the kids at Patchwork as part of Art & Company. They learn how to make art and then sell it and get a “company” dividend based on their investment of time and good behavior. I love the misspellings.

Here’s a collection, along with some ceramic fairies and a real fairy from my garden:

And finally, the cats. The back door is their happy, happy place. Lady Ygraine has been enjoying it for well over a month, but it’s been less than two weeks since Lady Morgaine decided to join her. They are very sweet together and even had their tails entwined the other day. Not pictured: the occasional times Ygraine puts her arm around Morgaine, growls, and pushes her daughter off the chair so mommy can have some “me time”. In Ygraine’s defense, Morgaine does tend to get a little too excited sometimes. Twice she’s been so engrossed in what was going on outside that she attempted to jump with all four feet onto the 0.5″ strip of wood framing the window and then fell off it with a bang that scared everyone.

Happy Garden of Rainbow Unicorn Dreams

This time of year is perfect. My garden looks beautiful, in part because everything in it is so fresh and new and excited to be alive. I bought several new plants at the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale a few weeks ago (held, funnily enough, on World Naked Gardening Day (no one was naked)) and I shoehorned them into my stuffed perennial bed so it’s an even bigger and fuller mass of colors and textures. The whole garden is a chartreuse land of rainbows and unicorns, and I’ve been spending all my spare minutes in it.

There are no death zones where plants have decided that I pushed them a little too far and they really don’t like where they’ve been planted. The raccoons haven’t held a kegger in the middle of the perennial bed. Nothing is deflated in the summer heat. No bug or slug infestation has wrecked the place. No single plant has decided to crowd out its neighbors until they die. The neighbor hasn’t lobbed bottle rockets into the yard. The next door landlord hasn’t killed my honeysuckle with Round-Up just because he blames the world for his shortcomings.

It’s a paradise that will fall soon enough. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

Early May Garden 2015

bits of color

The plants have all emerged from the ground and most are nearing their full size. You can click through the slide show below to see what’s going on in more detail. See if you can spot my cat surveying his domain!


An Object of Beauty

I first laid eyes on it back in January at the Bluffton, Ohio fireworks store. It was beautiful, but I let it slip by.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was destined to own it. That my garden would never be complete without it.

So last weekend when I was back in Bluffton, I went back to the fireworks store and inquired about it.

“$30. No returns.”


And so I present to you…

concrete raccoon

My new concrete raccoon!

It’s beautiful!

My sister suggested that I probably could have haggled on the price, but I was too excited. She also suggested that I should make a raccoon shrine in my yard, which I think is a good idea. Maybe it will drive away the raccoons.

And another I-kid-you-not fact for you: In November 1931, one former resident of my house caught an opossum in the back yard. People were so astounded to find such wildlife in the city that it made the newspaper.

catches possum

It was so remarkable that the guy offered the opossum to the local zoo.

possum presented to zoo

I’m disappointed that there’s no record of whether the zoo took it.

(All this is courtesy of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library’s new searchable database of historic newspapers and staying up too late because I found it so intriguing.)

Raccoons’ Revenge, part 2

Well, for those of you following the critter count, I’ve added another raccoon. That’s 15.


John and I are sure that about a week ago our basement was invaded once again by one of the raccoons left homeless when their condo across the street was torn down. We set up traps and caught a possum. We tried again and got a raccoon. We’ll keep trapping and see what we get.

A couple weeks ago, I cleared most of my garden for the winter. The tomatoes had pretty well given up, so it was a great opportunity to take everything out, spread some of our compost, and add a little extra garden soil. Then I planted garlic. It’ll start growing over the winter and be ready to harvest by June or July.

fall garden ready

I’ve been meaning to harvest my basil for pesto. The bees have continued to frequent my basil plants, so I was sorry to cut down their food supply.

bumble bee

So I let my basil grow as long as I dared before risk of losing it to the cold. I’ve decided it’s like the Christmas trees we get from the reclaimed strip mines–it looks like it’s a perfectly reasonable size until I bring it inside. I spent hours and hours clipping leaves off the stems and now have a respectable amount of pesto frozen for winter. My dad was visiting, so I had a wonderful kitchen buddy to keep me company while I worked.


I used two giant piles of basil and a bunch of garlic from my garden. I’ve had pretty good success growing garlic for the past several years. Both the garlic I harvested this summer and the batch I just planted are from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They sell a nice garlic sampler pack for small gardens. The amount I received was just a little too much for my tiny plot, which was better than past years when I had way too much. It’s a random array of varieties and they’re fun to try.

Here’s what I harvested this summer:

2013 garlic

Left to right they are:

S&H Silverskin Softneck — Hot, pleasant flavor that I liked best raw but I didn’t like as much when it was cooked and the flavor turned milder.

Duganski — A hardneck. It didn’t work well for me at all. The bulbs were small and didn’t keep. Raw I didn’t like it so much, but it was nice and nutty cooked.

Chopatka Mountain — Artichoke-style softneck. This one grew the best for me and had large, consistent bulbs. These weren’t incredibly flavorable, but weren’t bad.

Turkish Red Hardneck — These grew well, producing a bunch of nicely-sized bulbs. The flavor was consistently good, both raw and cooked–better than the Chopatka Mountain.

Another big project around my garden has been another round of refurbishing my birdbath mosaic. I redid the center last summer but then the edges started falling off. Now they’re fixed. It seems to be a never ending project because the water that the birds appreciate all winter freezes into destructive ice.



After: after

Meanwhile, I’ve had more fall color appear in my garden. The cardinal creeper slowly climbing up the side of my shed finally bloomed:

cardinal creeper in the rain

A couple coral bells have taken on some nice, subtle fall color:



And the toad lilies are blooming like there’s no tomorrow–and with a frost coming, maybe there isn’t. One of the later varieties has blooms cascading all the way down the length of the plant. Pretty cool.



Also cool? One of my garden photos placed third in a local photography competition. And my sculptural ode to this summer’s cacophony of cicadas won the “Tri County Recycling Award” at an exhibit of art made from recycled objects. Yay! Here’s the photo:


Garden Art and Art Gardens

I’ve been adding to my garden art lately. First I tackled the tree jewelry that I made last year. They just were never quite right. I’d strung them on fishing line that was invisible. In the end, I didn’t like the look and the birds were bumping into it. The fake flowers were surprisingly good at catching the wind and the beads weren’t heavy enough to keep them from blowing the strings all over the place and knotting the whole length of string into the tree branches.

This time I used more glass bottle beads but I added even glitzier beads and little bells. I strung them on thin acrylic yarn that fades from green to purple and back. I used the same fake flowers, but added fishing sinkers for more weight. I was hoping for the perfect balance that would result in just enough gentle movement to ring the bells and turn the whole tree into a wind chime. Alas, the weight is winning and I’ve barely heard a tinkle. They look good, though, and they’re not strung up in the branches in knots. I’ve decided that looking at the beautiful bells lets them ring in my mind, but it’s not quite the same.

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I also added a new kind of tree jewelry. Back in May, Patchwork, the nonprofit where I work, was broken into. The most significant thing that was stolen were all sorts of keys to the buildings. There was no way to tell exactly which keys were in the drawer that was burgled, so we re-keyed everything. Tons of people had to get new keys and turned in their old ones. Here’s a cup of 86 worthless keys (and not everyone’s are in there):


My friend Jane suggested we should make art out of the useless keys and that I deserved several of them for myself for having had to deal with the mess after the break in. I turned 25 of them into tree jewelry. I spray painted them with glow-in-the-dark paint (sadly, here it never gets dark enough at night to see them glow) and strung them with more of the glitzy beads. Included in the 25 I brought home was a special key: the only one that was recovered from the thief. We found it on the sidewalk after the break in.

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I also made some Wind Sticks for my garden. It all started with some cleaning indoors (something I need to do more of instead of working in my garden!). There was some old wooden trim left from a previous owner’s project. Five years seemed long enough to decide we weren’t going to use them, but on my way to the trash it somehow occurred to me to stick them in the ground. They went in nicely and bobbed gently in the breeze. I liked it. I bought some paint, some glitter, and more trim and now I have some extra movement in the garden. They also match my sunflowers and blackberry trellis, but they are difficult to photograph well.

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And where does my garden art inspiration come from? Recently John and I were on vacation visiting his family near Baltimore, MD. If you’re ever in Baltimore, I highly recommend visiting the American Visionary Art Museum. It’s full of very fun and interesting art made by visionary artists. What is that? The Museum says:

“Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.”

It’s art often made from found objects with encrusted surfaces. For me, it’s an inspiring place. You can’t take photographs inside the museum, but the outside is a piece of art as well:


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There’s also an amazing mirror tree out in front of the museum. It glitters and tinkles in the wind. All I need are a million mirrors:

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And there is a nice garden area. Some day I can imagine making a cool face fountain like theirs: