Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If You Build It, I Will Plant It

My mom and her husband flew down to visit my daughter and put up with me for the weekend so I wasn't able to blog about anything while they were here.  It's not that I was too busy to blog, of course, it's just that I had to keep up the ruse that I don't have a blog called "Me So Thorny" so my sweet, sheltered, good-natured mother wouldn't discover it and become more disappointed with me.  Besides the title, I may have written a thing or two over the course of this blog's existence that weren't intended for motherly consumption. 

So there was no showing off of the blog, but I did get to show my mom around the yard so she could see what I've done with the place since she was last here.  I guess I passed her test because she wants me to come up with a design she can use for a narrow space between the L-shaped walkway that leads up to her house and the 6-foot privacy wall that borders it.  Although I'm not a professional garden designer, I decided I could still give her the family and friends rate on my services as long as she agreed to fly me down to her place in Florida and feed me for as long as the installation took.  I doubt she'll hire me.

I think we'll reach a compromise though - I'll make a few suggestions and she'll keep my name in the will.  Although my price demands won't be met, I have to admit that I was, and I remain, happy to help.  It's nice when people recognize your talents (or at least your interests) and want you to share that with them. 

Which leads me to the real point of this post.  Several months ago I ran across this planter box/trellis combo at a nursery and loved the design but not the price tag. 

I've tried to zoom in and read the price tag for the sake of accuracy but I still can't tell if it says $389 or $589.  Either way, it's a lot plus $89 more than I wanted to spend so I never pulled the trigger.  And because I chose to take Greek and Latin roots as my high school elective instead of Wood Shop, I never acquired the requisite skills to build such a contraption. 

But the other day a friend of mine, Jordan, posted a picture on Facebook of a wooden bed frame he wanted to build.  It was a pretty cool bed frame and it occurred to me that if he could build something with some artistry to it and that was also sturdy enough to sleep on every night he could probably build something that would look good in the yard and still be sturdy enough to hold some potting soil.  So I sent him the picture above and asked him if he could replicate it.  He said yes and he quoted me a price I liked and the next thing I knew I had commissioned my first piece of anything.  

Like many woodworkers, Jordan is a perfectionist.  I suppose that trait is a necessity given the high cost of both lumber and the reattachment of phalanges.  As part of his preparation for this project he decided that it would be a good idea to go to the nursery where I originally found this design and take a closer look.  Being the honest guy he is, he reported back to me that the original unit was still there and they had marked it down to $299.  "But," he said, "it's really weathered and it's a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  My price quote was for a much bigger unit.  What do you want to do?"

I have a small yard so I try to get things that fit the scale of my garden.  But, and these are big buts, I had already struck a deal with him and I wanted to honor that deal especially since he'd already put forth some effort and you can't just tell another guy that you want the smaller thing no matter what it is.  If you have any choice in the matter, things like trucks, barbecues, gigabytes on your iPad, TV screens, and Subway sandwiches all have to be as big as possible if you want to save face.  Of course, you have to be careful you don't go too big because that just encourages Napoleon Complex jokes.  You see, being a modern man requires the balance of a funambulist. 

Naturally, I yelled "build it, build it, build it!" in response to Jordan's question.  A day later I had a message from him saying he was done.  When he said he had something bigger in mind, he wasn't kidding.

This mammoth creation stands 6'4" tall and is nearly as wide.  I have no idea how much it weighs, but I can tell you that once I decide where to put it, I won't be moving it again.

I learned a couple things in this process: 1. It's more fun and more rewarding to pay your friends for their talents than it is to pay a store (although I still want to support my local garden centers!).  2. Buying large pieces of anything require some extra thought.  You know, simple questions like "where will it go?" should have a readily-apparent answer.  3. If you're going to have house guests for the weekend, make sure they have a good back so they can help you unload heavy objects and 4. bigger may not always be better but it is more fun.  [Insert "that's what she said" joke here.]  

Now the fun part: what should I put in my new planter box?  I'm in zone 9A and it'll probably end up in full sun.  I'm leaning towards something like Chilean Jasmine or an espaliered apple tree but I'd love to hear your suggestions.   


  1. Chad, it's 2 AM and I'm sitting here giggling. I think you should show your blog to your mom, she would really enjoy it. (Us moms are weird like that, we love to know our kids write about us.)

    I'm so glad your friend built this gorgeous work of art for you (at a lightning fast pace and with no loss of phalanges) and I'm sure if anyone can site it correctly, it will be you. Looking forward to your decision.

  2. Can't tell you what to plant in it in your zone, but the workmanship is beautiful.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. I think you should send the new planter to me then you won't have to worry about it. (That was a trick suggestion but you probably saw right through it.) Jasmine sounds like a good plan. Or a clematis-- they come in a million colors and sizes. What a terrific addition to the garden. I like "funambulist" --sounds like walking while fun.

  4. I had a hard time concentrating after your 'and this is a big but' comment..."I like big butts and I cannot lie! You otha brothas can't deny...." I think I went through the whole song in my head before I could continue reading.

    The thing about your mom makes me laugh. My mom is one of my most dedicated blog/Facebook followers. My brother-in-law Steve asked, "Who's that old lady that comments on all your stuff?" "Uh...my mom." You should've seen the look on his face O_O...I think he ran back through everything he's ever said to make sure he didn't say anything too naughty on my page. I told him she doesn't care (I swear like a freaking sailor, as you've seen on my blog) but he hasn't posted since :P

    Anyway, on to the trellisbox. Love it! I'm lucky that Chuckles is pretty good with woodworking, so he's built be some awesome stuff. He lacks the power tools for finer work, through. I say go with the jasmine, that would be awesome on it.

    I'm so jealous of your blog title...I wish I'd picked something witty...but I honestly didn't think more than 2 people would ever read it...

  5. Karen - what in the world are you doing up at 2:00 a.m.? Don't you have a castle to build in the morning?

    Cher - thanks, and I agree. Jordan did a nice job on this. It would have taken me weeks to do something like this and it wouldn't have turned out half as nice.

    Linniew - thank you for the offer, but I don't think I could stuff this into one of those flat rate shipping boxes from the USPS. Clematis is a good suggestion and I think I might go with it. I hadn't thought of clematis yet but I have always wanted to try growing them.

    Kyna - I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I also had Sir Mix-a-Lots wise words running through my mind when I typed that. It felt like I should have acknowledged that with a joke of some sort but other than intentionally misspelling "but" I couldn't think of anything.

    As for my mom reading my blog . . . even if I haven't written anything that would truly offend her, I always have this sense that when I write something about one of my many character flaws that I am somehow blaming her for it or that she'll feel responsible for it. You know what I mean? If I say that I'm a pot hoarder she might infer it is her fault because she didn't let me keep my toys when I misbehaved as a child.

  6. If, your mom has a computer, she may be happily reading along with us ;~) Had you thought of that?

  7. I hadn't really considered that. She can barely figure out how to retrieve text messages from her own cell phone. ;)

  8. Someone will tell her. And she will be so proud. Moms are like that. It doesn't matter what it is, we're proud of our children. As for the planter - wow - great workmanship. I love the espaliered apple tree idea. But you can always put annuals in it for a year until you decide for certain.

  9. When I looked at the first photo, it seemed fairly straightforward to reverse engineer it. It's all straight cuts (that's the only kind of woodwork I'm any good at...at sewing too...straight lines are about my limit). I think your friend did a great job, and it's probably better made than the one with the hefty price tag too. As lovely as an espaliered apple might be...do you want to do that much work? They are very high maintenance (if you want fruit that is). They're actually banned from my garden on those grounds ;) I like the jasmine idea, or how about a bower vine? Something that's evergreen over winter, but with blooms in the spring and summer. Although that said, a clematis might be lovely too.

  10. Holley - I write another general life kind of blog that my mom reads and I'm hoping that will throw off the scent of this blog.

    Curbstone - You bring up a good point about the work involved in having an espaliered apple tree. I wouldn't mind the work related to training the branches, but when I hear about people having to bag each apple to protect them from pests that does seem like more effort than I want to give especially when I consider my already limited amount of time. I do have a couple bower vines already but one of them is in a less than ideal location and would certainly volunteer for relocation if it could talk. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. What a cool planter! I have no clue what you should put in it since I haven't lived in CA in forever. Maybe something a bit xeric so you're not constantly dousing your wood with water, like an agastache or penstemon. Just make sure your daughter gets out before you start planting. :o)

  12. Great looking planter -- and there is no such thing as too big. It will be great as a focal point. By the way, if you want to see another cool project check out "Garden Furniture" on http://ozarklandscapes.com/blog/

  13. Chad, thank you so very much for the kind comment over on my blog. Give your little girl an extra hug....oh, they grow up much too fast.

    P.S. Dave called me today (I lost count how many times) with questions ranging from what type of flour to buy at the grocery store to how to pick out a good head of lettuce....so I guess I'm still needed, lol.

  14. Chad, you don't need to send me your gorgeous new planter, but can you fit Jordan in one of those flat-rate boxes? -Jean