Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Suffering from a Lack of Focus

It’s become increasingly common for me to have conversations with friends about our growing inability to maintain focus on one thing at a time.  We blame the internet.  Commercial break?  Check Facebook real quick.  Pause in the conversation while you wife sneezes?  That’s a perfect chance to check your fantasy football scores.  Three minutes before you have to go to a meeting? Refresh your e-mail to see if anyone else has written.  Sad to say, it’s gotten bad enough for me that it’s no longer uncommon to stop what I’m reading mid-sentence and check stock prices or to see if any of my favorite bloggers have published a new post.  And if someone posts an online article with links in it, you can pretty much write-off any chances of me finishing the original article.
All this is to say that this sort of internet fueled ADD has bled over into my unplugged life.  It used to be that I could go outside and tackle a project and work on it until completion.  What is more likely to happen now is that I will go out to deadhead the dianthus and I’ll end up working on sprinklers, picking up liquid amber balls of pain and fury, or check my phone to see just how hot it is because it sure feels hot.  Oh look, here comes the ice cream truck.  I wonder what kind of profit they make on days like this.  Do you think that’s a good job or is it just miserable driving around listening to that one song all day long?  What is that song anyway?  I should Google it.  Now what was I going to do with these pruners in my pocket? 

Gardening is supposed to provide us with a break from these kinds of distractions isn’t it? 

Our drought and the heat make these succulents feel like the only responsible plant I can buy right now.

This past weekend being Memorial Day weekend, I decided to make a mini-vacation of it and I took a couple extra days off.  This allowed me ample opportunity to work in the yard in the mornings before the afternoon temps hit close to 100 degrees.  While I worked, I tried really, really hard to focus on one task at a time.  I was mildly successful.  But at after a few hours of weeding, it occurred to me that maybe multi-tasking does have its benefits.  For one, it allows you to use some different muscles and relax others.  The biggest advantage of focusing on one task though has to be the satisfaction that comes when you actually complete something and know that you’ve done it well. 

I installed a brick mow strip to border a new bed I created a few weeks ago. 

I still need to add some sand to the cracks between the bricks and clean up some of the excess dirt from excavating.

I weeded that new bed, a bed I made last year, and the vegetable garden. 

My fenced-in vegetable garden as seen through a young pomegranate tree.

I planted plugs of dwarf mondo grass in a small foundation bed.  I trimmed and pruned the dead wood from several trees.  I hacked off an enormous amount of mulberry branches that were touching the roof of the house.  I extended my drip irrigation system to include a few more plants that were looking worse for wear. 

One of the trees I trimmed was this potted Chaste tree.  When this tree blooms, it's pretty awesome.

I replanted a Strawberry Tree that was competing with the lawn to gain a foothold.  And I thought about, but decided against, cleaning out the potting shed.  But I want credit for just thinking about it because the thought alone made me tired and irritable.

This tree looks so pathetic right now.  Its droopy leaves and sparse
branches make this look like the landscape equivalent of Charlie Brown's
Christmas tree.  Hopefully my decision to replant it now will help
it along and not sped up its death.

I stretched my body and my mind and I came away with a renewed appreciation for what a little focus can do.

Same view as the one above a couple shots but with a different focus.
See, even my pictures can't stay focused on one thing!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014 Mother's Day Garden Tour - Part I

I'm getting old.  That's what I realized when this past weekend we found ourselves asking if this was the 8th or 9th year we've gone on the East Sacramento Mother's Day Garden Tour.  It seems like just a year or two ago that we were traipsing around, wide-eyed and inspired by these gardens for the very first time.  Who'da thunk I'd be old enough to have started a tradition that is very nearly a decade long?

But enough of that.  Let's ignore getting older for a while and take a look at some pictures I took.

This first garden was amazing.  It provided me with an idea of what my garden could look like if I had lots and lots and lots of money and an artist's touch.  This house has a current market value in the neighborhood of $1.8 million so that should give you some idea of what I'm talking about.  Anyone want to fund my efforts to see if I can duplicate this?  No?

This wooden garage door is a piece of art by itself.

The pathway from the driveway into the backyard

This was one of maybe a half dozen fountains in the garden.  It was one of the first things we noticed when entering the garden.  There's nothing like the sound of water on a hot day.

Areas like this helped this garden not to feel like it was all about the hardscape.

A narrow pool in the foreground with the owner's art studio/guest
house in the background.

Amen to this, right?

It's not every day that I get to stand UNDERNEATH a Japanese maple.  I can only imagine how old this beauty is.

I loaned my daughter a small camera for the day.
She took more pictures than I did and kept herself entertained in the process.
The second garden on our tour was more modest and quite small.  It looked like the house was newly built and I guess that didn't leave a lot of room for the garden.

As you can see, this one bed dominated the entire landscape of the front yard.  But I like the retaining wall.

The pillows are a nice touch of civic pride.

I'm a sucker for fountains, river rock, and pavers.  But this still didn't work for me aesthetically.  

I was intrigued by this iron display but found it hard to capture with the camera especially
since the space was cramped and I was trying to be respectful of other people on the tour.

Another view of the iron work.  The wall on the right is part of the detached garage.

Given the newness of this garden, I can only assume that this Japanese maple
is one of the unnamed seedlings which generally grow faster and are much
cheaper to buy when they are this large.  Cultivar name or not, it's a nice tree.  

Our last garden for this post had it's fair share of charm.  Unfortunately, this house was on a corner lot and I didn't get a chance to see the front yard since the entrance to the garden was on the other side.

An old chandelier is given new life as whimsical plant container.

Another view.

Mason jars were painted blue and pink and hung from chairs.
There's no lawn and plenty of shade in this garden.  If it were my space, I'd want a little more room to
plant things, but it also seems like a nice place to entertain friends in the evening.
More pictures to come in the next few days.  Thanks for taking a looksie with me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

One Of Those Hot Nights

It got hot here this week.  It was at least 92/93 degrees today which is right on the border of misery.  But hot days often make for pleasant evenings in Sacramento.  Tonight is one of those nights.  After we finished dinner and did the dishes I was drawn to the window by the sound of a couple mourning doves on one of the wires stretching from the telephone pole to our house.

I must have spooked them because they flew off and perched on another wire farther away.  I think they can get a better view of the sunset from these wires anyway.

While standing at the window gawking at the birds like I'd never seen flying creatures before, I realized that the setting sun made everything look better.  I grabbed my camera and went out to see if I could capture the feeling (I couldn't, but the following pictures were my attempt):

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' - one of the most ubiquitous Japanese Maples 
I've had this 'Bloodgood' maple for years.  It was the first one I ever bought and I have abused, neglected, and mistreated this fella since Day 1.  I even removed about half of the tree this very spring.  One day I just felt like pruning stuff and I took a "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger" approach with this tree.  And if it died? Oh well.

And yet here it is, shining in the sunlight for me to enjoy as if I hadn't totally insulted it.

Looking just to the left of the Bloodgood, you can see the borrowed view of our neighbor's mature trees.  You can also see multiple power lines, cable lines and who knows what other kinds of lines those are.  It's a shame that our homes need to have these visual monstrosities in order for us to do things like blog on the internet.  But the greens, the reds, and the golden sunshine help distract from the wires if only for a few minutes.

Rosa 'Mr. Lincoln'

At the other end of the yard. the sun's rays had already gone behind the trees.  But I was captivated by the juxtaposition of the red rose petals against the weathered fence boards.  If I wanted to get all poetic here, I'd make an analogy about how two of the blooms have clearly passed their prime.  They are setting suns at the end of their path.  But the third bloom is still just a promise.  It has yet to open, it has yet to shine.  That bloom is like tomorrow's sun.  But I don't want to get all poetic.