Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dragon-Leaf Begonias

A few months ago, I got a few clippings of dragon-leaf begonias from a fellow gardener. While cutting them, a stray leaf would fall and be cast away. Curious about whether or not the leaves would root, I set one up in water on the kitchen counter.

Well, it took significantly longer than the cuttings, but by George the leaf took root! [Insert mad scientist laugh here!!!]

Raised Beds Photos

I've been so busy the last few weeks, I haven't had a chance to update you on my progress. Well, two beds have been lined with plastic (to prevent chemicals from the pressure-treated wood leaching into the soil) and filled with soil. In one, I planted broccoli, asparagus and garlic chives, and in the other, there's garlic, onions, rosemary and parsley. And for the finishing touch, the pathways have been mulched. So far everything is doing well and this freaky yo-yo weather hasn't hurt them a bit.

One bed is waiting to be filled and the other is being used as a temporary compost pile for kitchen scraps.

Go On...Humor Me

Yesterday at the library, I ran into a fan of this blog. Really! When I asked her how she heard about it, we figured out our three degrees of separation. She went on to tell me which posts she particularly enjoyed, which pleased me to no end. However, when I asked her why she didn't leave a comment, she just shrugged, like it didn't matter.

Well, it matters to me! As much as I enjoy receiving e-mails from you about whichever gardening tidbit floats your boat, I love seeing my followers grow and comments even more. So please, take the time to do so. Give me the encouragement I sometimes need to keep posting.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Raised Beds Tour

I really enjoy touring with the Master Gardeners of Pike County. On Wednesday, we braved the low 40's temperatures and visited Ellis Bush Jr.'s raised bed farm in Brundidge.

Bush has approximately 200 acres. Near his house, he has about eight large raised beds made from cedar, which he hired a portable sawmill to cut from his property. (For $300, he yields $3,000-$4,000 worth of lumber.) Some were just a few inches tall, while others exceeded two feet tall. Like mine, they are lined with plastic. But, I lined to stop chemicals from the pressure-treated wood leaching into the soil, Bush lined to prevent moisute rotting the wood. Using organic practices, he rotates his crops, and for the winter, we saw broccoli, radishes, turnips and collards, just to name a few.

Also on the property was a very impressive barn, also made from wood from his property, a recycled window green house where Bush gets his seeds started, and several beautiful hand made cedar swings which he gives away. (Hey Ellis, next time you're looking for someone to give a swing to...)

We wrapped up after an hour, with handfuls of freshly picked radishes which were delicious. Hopefully we'll get a chance to go back in the spring and see the crop plants (e.g. corn, peas, etc.) in action.

I'm leaving you with a few pictures from our adventure:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pot Lid Butterfly Feeder

As a Master Gardener, I am trained to look at discarded items with an eye to repurpose them. A few months ago, I swapped out my old teflon-coated pots for stainless steel ones, but kept the perfectly good lids in case I ever needed them. After watching a short-story commerical about decluttering your life, where they specifically instructed the viewers to toss those old pot lids that do not match the new pots, I was at a crossroad. But, a recent conversation about a butterfly garden gave me an idea!

I used the lids to make a butterfly feeder:

Butterflies need shallow watering trays from which to drink. Even bird baths are too deep. Now I just need to find the right spot in one of my flower beds, where we can enjoy watching our flying friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coffee County Master Gardener Class 2011

My Master Gardener Class wrapped up a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the intensive 12-week course immensely and made a few friends along the way. In addition to the 50-hours of class time, Interns are required to accumulate 50 volunteer hours over the next 12-months before we receive our certification. I'm halfway there and still enjoying every minute.

Master Gardener Humor

Top 10 Ways that your neighbors know that you are a Master Gardener:

10. You have the Horticultural Hotline number on your speed-dial.
9. When attending your children's soccer game, you check for crabgrass.
8. You'd turn down a job transfer to a city with a shorter growing season.
7. You know the precise botanical name of every plant in your yard, but have difficulty remembering the names of your spouse and children.
6. You buy beer for slugs.
5. Your children's hair has been clipped into topiary forms.
4. At parties, you've been overheard discussing the pros and cons of sterilizing garden soil in your oven.
3. You enjoy receiving a load of well-rotted manure for a special occasion.
2. Your bumper sticker reads: "I brake for worms," "I'd rather be weeding," or "Have you hugged your cactus today?"
1. You're disappointed to learn that you can't order vegetable seeds from L. L. Bean.

Number 3 is especially funny, because I was over the moon when a friend of mine gave me a 5-gallon bucket of worm casings. My husband however couldn't be less interested when I called him at work to share my good news.

Yo-Yo Weather Side Effects

The recent yo-yo weather has my plants confused. My blackberries and forsythia, which long went dormant, are putting out green, leafy growth. On the other hand, my warm-loving bell peppers and parsley are still going strong. Crazy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Raised Beds In!

This was a busy weekend for us. The raised beds are in and looking fantastic! The DH did a great job and even included attachements to convert them to mini greenhouses when necessary.

The plan was adapted from the following site:

Thursday, October 27, 2011


  1. Amend soil - check
  2. Till ground - check
  3. Build raised beds - HONEY I NEED YOUR HELP!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Plant Sale Experience

What a fantastic day with the Wiregrass Master Gardeners' Association at their Fall Plant Sale at the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens yesterday! And what a mouthful! It was a fantastic learning experience and an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at this mega-successful production.

Some ideas I would like to adopt in my own club include:

1. Creating a resource guide for those working at the sale, containing information sheets on each plant offered, including pictures, mature height and spread, light and water requirements, etc, to better advise our buyers. Hey, not even Master Gardeners are experts on everything.

2. Partnering with local business for advertisements, signage, even manpower.

3. In the advertisements, encourage homeowners to come with their landscaping plans for advice AND plants.

4. Encouraging those working at the sale to wear green aprons (or t-shirt, or some other form of uniform) as a means of identification. For some reason, the green aprons popped in the crowd and blostered my confidence. I felt as if I belonged with this group of plant experts. It was amazing!

Given our size and number of active members, the Pike County Master Gardeners do a fair job at our annual plant sale, which is held during Troy Fest, the last weekend in April. With these few tweaks, we'll be well on our way to even greater success.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Husband the Contractor

I've been busy the last few days. Nearly everything has been dug up out of the garden and temporarily potted. I will finish the rest this evening and tomorrow should be able to start amending the bed.

Also found a plan for the raised beds I want to implement. I've "hired" the DH to work on these.

Should be fun!?!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pike County Master Gardener October Meeting 2011

For this month's Master Gardener meeting, we invited Jason Powell from Petals From the Past to speak on the virtues of antique plants. As usual, he was fantastic. There was a great turnout. I was so proud of my little group. And of course Jason brought goodies for us to purchase. In typical fashion, there was a minor scuffle over an antique rose. Only this time it involved one determined lady in a wheelchair...who won out. Great start to the new fiscal year!

As an aside, I talked to him about my soil pH and trouble with berries. He recommended digging everything up (this I anticipated and have already started doing so - seems my MG classes are paying dividends already) and potting them in store-bought potting mix while I amend the beds. This should help them recover faster as adjusting soil pH is a long process. Oy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lowe's Nursery Specialists

I constantly complain about big box stores, but somehow can't seem to stay away. It's amazing what I'll put up with for the right price I guess.

I get so frustrated with the "Nursery Specialists" at Lowe's. So the kids and I go there this morning for aluminum sulfate or sulfate coated urea to amend my garden bed to lower the pH. Because I get overwhelmed whenever there is more than one option for whatever I'm looking for, I decide to take a short cut and ask said specialist to pick one for me. She looks me in the eye and tells me point blank that they don't sell those. O-K. I politely thank her and brave the shelves myself.

As I'm browsing the assortment of fertilizers especially for acid-loving plants (a.k.a. plants that prefer a lower pH) an older Lowe's employee who I've known for years, with no fancy title, helps me narrow down my aluminum sulfate search. (Thanks Ms. Ellyn!) I momentarily considered calling the Nursery Specialist back and showing her where she could find the aluminum sulfate products, but ultimately decide against it.

I guess I should have been more specific with my request, telling her what I wanted to accomplish instead of asking for the active ingredient. Silly me for assuming she would be familiar with active ingredients. Note to self for next trip.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Honey-Do List

Fall is here which means it's time to work on that pesky garden honey-do list. These include:

  1. Lowering the pH of my garden from a whopping 8 to a more reasonable 5.5 to accommodate my blueberries (See
  2. Building a raised bed for my summer garden items e.g. bell peppers, tomatoes
  3. Transplant asparagus away from the blueberries, although the alkaline soil has them growing like weeds
  4. Transplanting forsythia and one butterfly bush as they are planted too close to the house
  5. Expanding garden bed under crape myrtle trees
  6. Consider planting a winter garden (yeah right!)
Tonight, the DH, kids and I got started transplanting the asparagus. Not going so well. We're doing a bang-up job on the roots so it will be a long shot if they survive.

Tomorrow it's off to Lowe's to purchase the necessary soil ammendments to achieve #1. Oy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Digging Elephant Ears

There is a quarter-mile of Elephant Ear patches on one of my local highways. I'd been eyeing these for days. Finally, I convinced my digging daylilies buddy ( to go with me. Our escapade took all of five minutes as these beauties were growing very near a stream and were a breeze to extract.

Now I have two new Elephant Ear patches in my garden and one in a pot for use later. YAY!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hedge Trimmers Part Deux

Second time's a charm. We upgraded to the Black and Decker Hardened Steel Electric Hedge Trimmer. What a difference. Not having a battery reduced the weight and for nearly half the price, I more than tripled the power. I had my hedges tamed in about an hour.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hedge Trimmers

I convinced the DH to invest in a cordless hedge trimmer, thinking it would make my life easier. So we bought the Black & Decker 2-in-1 Garden Shear Combo:

What a colossal waste of time and money! If I were simply looking to chop off the tops of our Bahia grass, then this would be ideal. But trim hedges, this tool does not. Not even delicate new growth on boxwood. Seriously, how is this product still on the market?!?

It's marketed to women and the elderly. No offense, but that should have been my first clue. I give them props on it being lightweight as advertised. But if my three and a half year old son can manage it, then it's probably not the right tool to be in my shed.

So it's back to the drawing board. I'll probably end up getting some chain saw type concoction that will intimidate me, thereby using my lady parts to sweet talk my husband into taking over the hedges.

(***OMG I can't believe I just typed that. Thinking it is one thing...but actually typing it? I've been reading too much Erica Shickel!***)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Garden Therapy

Little is as relaxing as working in the yard on a cool morning. I felt energized all day.


One of our neighborhood fawns was found dead on my neighbor's lawn this afternoon. We're guessing it was sick and separated from the pack. I spotted the Mom in the area twice today. I guess she was checking on her baby.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God and St. Francis Discuss Lawns

Here is a joke we shared in MG class. When I showed it to the DH last night, he could not stop laughing. We ARE Suburbanites!


GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's tempermental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?"

ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a really stupid movie about.....

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Monday, August 22, 2011

THIS MEANS WAR!!!!!!!!!!

The DH and I have declared war on tomato hornworms after we found another three decimating our bell pepper bushes. (I could slap myself for digging up those French marigolds!) I've squashed more than I care to admit, and my my trigger-happy hubby is anxious to break out the BB gun again. But, because I appreciate the benefits of the Five Spotted Hawk Moth these little buggers become, we're going to try a different route.

We've captured these three and are currently housing them in a glass jar on a restricted diet, i.e. one bell pepper a day. The plan is to build a more appropriate cage to enable them to form chrysalises, and release them after they've metamorphed.

Now I admit I've neglected my garden a bit this summer. Between visitors, trips and just trying to stay out of the unbearable S. Alabama heat, I've not done the preventative work necessary to keep it in tip top shape. But I'm going to start remedying that tonight. As soon as the sun sets. Good times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fight to the Death

You know times are hard when these hornets start fighting for the tomato hornworms carcasses. Gross.

More Nests...

Every time I think the hubby and I are empty nesters, I find another nest.

Weeks ago, my baby bluebirds flew away. But I get tp see them from time to time at the feeder. Too bad their nest was beyond the reach of documenting in photos.

Walking by one of my many overgrown shrubs this afternoon, I spotted a mockingbird darting into it. Upon closer inspection I found a nest tucked neatly away in the middle with a lone baby mocking bird in its midst. So for a little while, I have a baby again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tomato Hornworms

Over the last few weeks, a few of my tomato bushes have been affected  by blight. I dug those up to prevent it from spreading. Without thinking, I also pulled up the French Marigold plants circling the affected tomato bushes. Because I didn't know it at the time of planting, I sowed a variety of Marigold plants. But French Marigolds are the most effecting at warding off tomato hornworms. Well, wouldn't you know it, the blight-infested bushes were surrounded by French Marigolds while the healthy ones are surrounded by Dwarf Marigolds and some other variety I forget now.

When the French Marigolds moved out, the tomato hornworms moved it. Three of them stripped a large plant overnight. I'm hoping that's all there were. But you can never spot those buggers until it's too late. Going to spend tomorrow evening spraying Neem Oil. Fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Master Gardener in the Making

I've waited two years, but this time it's going forward... Am so looking forward to the 2011 Master Gardener's Course in New Brockton.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Walking Stick Insect

Now I know what's been nibbling on my Altheas and Dahlias. It's so beautiful and unusual, I didn't have the heart to squash it.  However, I'll probably regret that in a few weeks when my plants don't flower.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Digging Daylilies

I sometimes amaze myself at the things I get up to for the love of my garden. I've often been inspired by several Master Gardeners who enjoy telling me stories about their flower-digging escapades. Some constantly travel with a shovel and pots in their trunk in case they need to pull over on the side of the Interstate for an interesting species. I'm told you'd be surprised at how well some of them can spot a 6-inch plant on the side of the road while driving 50 mph.

For many weeks, I've enjoyed observing native daylilies on an abandoned property in the woods while driving to and from church. It took nearly as long, but I finally built up the gusto to pull some up. With the kids in the back seat and a girlfriend at my side, we were rearing to go.

Strange looks from passerbys, irrational fear of snakes and getting arrested for trespassing or stealing or both aside, I really enjoyed the experience. Maybe I'll start traveling with a portable potting station myself.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Tomato Hornworm Strikes Again!!!

I did pretty good this year considering it's the end of June and I've only now encountered my first tomato hornworm. After reading about it in a Lowe's Creative Ideas magazine last year, I diligently planted marigolds (btw French marigolds are the most pungent, therefore best for repelling hornworms) around my tomato bushes to keep the hornworms at bay. So far so good. But one of my potted bell peppers was not so lucky.

Just yesterday I picked robust bell peppers from the same bush and didn't notice anything amiss. 24-hours later I check it out and the entire top portion of the plant lost its leaves. Upon closer inspection, I found an enormous mature hornworm sucking away at a remaining unripe bell pepper. This thing was so huge I was able to notice its white sucker feet which left their imprint on my poor bell pepper. Gross. Hope it enjoyed its last meal.

There he is...dead center.

So where did it come from? I don't know. Everything else looks fine but apparently looks can be decieving. Need to break out the BT and Neem oil pronto! In the meantime, guess I'll be planting marigolds with the bell peppers too. Think Lowe's will pay me for that tip?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kimberly Ferns

I have officially given up on my Kimberly Ferns. Yes, they were filling in as evidenced in earlier posts (see ), however the process was just taking too long and I chose to reuse the pots and soil to display other plants in better shape.

My Boston Ferns on the other hand are doing spectacularly and have to be trimmed almost every other week. Guess that bird poop is still working it. lol!

Rare Cahaba Lily

I'm so pleased my Cahaba Lily is in bloom in my rain garden. It's so unusual and smells divine.

The natural environment for the Cahaba Lily is rivers across the southeast United States, namely Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. However, if grown in full sunlight and moist soils, they usually last for many years in rain gardens. In its natural environment, bloom time is early May to late June, but flowers later otherwise. The flowers last for one day and seeds germinate to produce new plants.

As the rate of Cahaba Lilies are in decline, it is important to note that they should not be picked from riverbanks. If you are lucky enough to know someone with this plant already, patiently grow one from seed. (see ) It's well worth the effort.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Babies On The Way

The DH and I haven't been empty nesters for long. A few weeks ago the kids and I discovered a bluebird nest in my newest birdhouse. Yay!

This one is too high though for daily viewings. Still, can't wait to see the babies.

Desert Storm

Please Lord, send more rain.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Empty Nesters

I knew this time would come, I just didn't think it would come so soon. Yesterday, my last baby birdie flew away. Just earlier this week I took this picture of the babies in the nest. As the flash went off, one actually flew out and away.

My three-year old still insists on peeking at the nest, which triggers a multiple of 'why's about growing up and moving on. In stark contrast, my almost two-year old daughter doesn't seem to mind. As long as she gets her snacks on the porch as usual, she couldn't care less about the empty nest in the fern above her head.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The babies are here!!!

Sometime this week the eggs hatched. Aren't they precious...[insert audible aaaaawwwwwwww]

Nasty Flying Things and Creepy Crawlies

This has been a fun week. In addition to watching our little baby birdies, we came across a hornet's nest with babies in various cycles and some sort of porcupine caterpillar. Let's start from the beginning.

One of my Mother's Day presents was having the DH swap out a damaged bird house for one in much better shape. As he was doing this, I noticed him on the ladder swinging a hammer furiously around his head. I thought he was trying to swat away a fly, but turns out he was trying to kill a mama hornet (in mid air no less). Well, he got her and found what was making her so aggressive - she laid a nest in the damaged birdhouse. My husband was just as excited as the kids to observe the more developed larvae as well as those that could only jiggle as he moved the next around. Kinda gross but like one of those trainwrecks you can't look away from.

A little later on, the kids and I found a caterpillar which no one is able to identify. It's black with orange stripes, suckers for feet and quills. Yes, I said quills. Freaky. Anyway, this is not the first one I've seen over the years, but it is the first one we captured to hopefully determine what type of moth or butterfly it turns in to.

We currently housing it in a glass jar with a ventilated top. Since this picture was taken, we've added a few twigs and more leaf variety since its began spinning its coccoon. Not long now.

I was worried I'd run out of activities to keep the kids amused this summer, but seems like our yard has the potential to keep us plenty busy if only we can survive the heat.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Asiatic Lilies in Full Bloom

These started blooming Easter weekend. I couldn't have been more thrilled.

The surprising thing is I posted this particular flower bed on HGTV's Rate My Space and it got a 2/5. Guess it looks better in person.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Still Here

Mama birdies and eggs ok even though they spent the night swaying recklessly in the wind in my hanging fern, thanks to the dangerous weather that hit the southeast yesterday.

Babies On The Way

Wouldn't you know it...a mama bird built a nest and lay three eggs in one of my hanging ferns and I didn't even know it.

A few days ago when a friend came to visit, she noticed the mama bird fly out of the hanging pot as she approached the door. We stood sentry inside and watched as the birdie flew back into the nest.

A few hours later, I stretched to get this shot. Awesome, but going to make watering the plant super tough.

I'm inching closer and closer to that certified wildlife backyard habitat status I'm longing for.

Don't you just love spring?!?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making a Conical Topiary

***Guest writer: DH***

In order to fulfill my wife's promise to enable other wives to talk their husbands into building chicken-wire cones, here are the instructions:

First, you'll need your better 75% to instruct you how tall and wide the cones have to be. It's always best to double-check those dimensions, preferably after a few days have gone by idle (idle means that the wife is still thinking about it and changing her mind while fruitlessly trying to telepathically let you know how they are no longer supposed to be 24" by 8").

Next, understand that a cone is a three-dimensional object. You may be familiar with other 3D items such as beer bottles and pool sticks. Now, in order to make a 3-dimensional object out of 2-dimensional chicken-wire will involve deconstructing the cone into a flat shape. Contrary to your initial thoughts, a cone rolled out flat is not a triangle. Go ahead, cut a triangle out of a piece of paper and roll it up, I'll wait.

See, the base isn't level, isn't it. Now, throw out that first attempt before your wife sees you doing this. After all, the blog entry told you it's not a triangle, so you shouldn't have attempted it in the first place. A rolled out cone actually looks like a triangle with a concave base. (Note to wife: insert picture here. I hate this $%*@&# Google editor and I am not fooling with images anymore.) However, trying to get the correct measurements of the chord (the base of the triangle) and the segment (the concave portion at the bottom) based on only the cone's base radius and height involves 1.5 hours of your precious ESPN-allowance and the use of 3 to 4 online calculators.

One can make a nicely shaped paper cone by drawing a circle on the paper, cutting the circle out and then from that circle remove a 90-degree triangle. Rotate the corners of the remaining 3/4 circle and voila... Now, this will require you to have a roll of chicken wire that's slightly wider than double your required height (the exact size of chicken wire required depends on the size of the base and calculating the aforementioned height again requires 3 online calculators). In my case, our chicken wire was 48" wide, which meant that I could not use that technique, as I needed about 51" of circle diameter.

However, one can also create a cone from the discarded 1/4 circle cut out above. (Yes, fish it back out of the kitchen wastebasket. If you're lucky, none of your kids' food leftovers came in touch with it.) You need a little bit of overlap ideally, but it works. I suspect that the person who suggested using 3/4 of a circle to create a cone while 1/4 is actually sufficient owns a significant amount of shares in Georgia Pacific.

Finally, let's get back to the chicken wire project. Chicken wire and paper are not quite equal in terms of their physical properties. Your wife will insist on using chicken wire because it's more durable than paper. However, a chicken wire cut is more dangerous than a paper cut. Watch out, get gloves and cut some corners. Or actually, forget about cutting corners. The less you have to cut out of chicken wire, the sooner you're done and the less risk of poking your eye out. Just cut out a square with sides a little longer than your required height (the wider the base, the more allowance you need to make). Just make sure that one side of your square is concave (recall the base of the cone requires it).

Then, take the corners adjacent to the concave side of your square and tie them together. OK, now, remove the chewing gum (it won't last) and tie them together with chicken wire scraps. Once the base corners are connected to each other ensure it looks circular (unless your supervisor directed you to create a different shape than a cone. In that case, stop what you're doing and find a blog post that addresses your needs).

With the base corners securely fastened, start rolling one of the top corners as tightly as possible inward and downward. The tighter you can roll it, the better the cone's top will look. You're going for a thin point, although that probably won't work out (as chicken wire isn't the same as paper). Keep rolling it up, while correcting the shape of the cone's sides to keep them straight. Repeat as many times as necessary, call your significant other to inspect, and catch the end of the game.

Tip 1: Pretend you don't know where the scratch on the car came from. It's unlikely your wife will actually call CSI to match the scratch to the chicken wire you used. Blame her for it next time she swings the door open too fast.

Tip 2: Further pretend you can't type. That way, you won't have to share your experiences with other husbands and get them in the same limbo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guess Which Irises Are Bloomin' Now

Louisiana and Siberian...

Conical Ivy Topiaries

I've been lusting after ivy topiaries for the front porch for a while now, but was not prepared to pay the hefty price tag they carry. So I decided to make my own. I just didn't know where to start.

I scoured the garden centers for wire forms, but apparently they don't carry them around here. While in Montgomery yesterday, I visited Southern Homes and Gardens (love that place) and a nursery worker suggested I make one out of chicken wire. Bingo, I have tons of the stuff at home. So I bought two small ivy plants for good measure. Finally making progress.

Once I decided on a conical shape, I drafted the DH to help me after the kids went to bed. I imagined we'd don some gloves, cut up and 'paste' with floral wire and be done in time to watch a few episodes of Golden Girls. No such luck. The hubby wanted to make them 'right' and to this end, we spent and hour and a half looking up math formulas and creating paper templates.

During this exciting quality time, I found a craft blog which suggested cutting a circle shape, then cutting out a quarter of that circle to make the cone. But as this method employed (dare I say it) estimation over the use of a scientific calculator, it wasn't good enough.

Eventually we (and by we I mean him) figured out how to calculate the arc, apothem, and chords to make the cones. (I will have to let him post the steps for other poor souls looking to make them right.) The actual making of the cones took all of 10 minutes, but the pride my husband felt in succeeding cannot be measured.

Thanks hon. I love that you're a perfectionist and they look great. And you still know how to show me a good time. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lessons From Seasoned Gardeners

Today marks one week since a friend and I visited a church member to help divide Queen Anne & Boston ferns (some of which I got to bring home), and ficus plants. For those of you who've never wrestled out pot bound ferns from tapered pots, no-easy-feat.

Having been devoted to bulbs and seedlings the last last few seasons, I am throughly unaccostomed to treating plants like wayward toddlers. Ferns and ficuses are super resilient. My previous experience watching a Kimberly fern being cut with a reciprocating saw made what we did seem graceful.

The three of us used an axe, butcher knives and a v-shaped weeding tool to rip out and into the ferns with all the fury we could muster. As for the ficuses, 1/2 to 2/3 of the root balls were simply sawed off to regenerate the plants. Who would have thought?!?

That gave me the courage to 'regenerate' my own ficus which was seriously pot bound. The hubby and I lifted it out and I sawed off the bottom half, added fresh soil and repotted it. Done.

I waited a week to post this to make sure everything survived. The ficus is thriving. The Boston ferns had the most body to them, and while a few fronds dropped (I assume from transplant stress), new fronds are coming up. That's always good. They make great additions to the front porch area. The Queen Anne's didn't drop any fronds [surprisingly], but haven't put out any new growth that I can see. They were a bit thin from the start from being so root bound, but the leaves are greening up. For now, they're in the garage. I would express doubt that they will make it, but then I think back to the Kimberly Ferns that are doing so well. I suppose the lesson here is not to doubt someone who is brave enough to take an axe or an electrical tool to a plant.