Friday, June 20, 2008

What is a garden without a splashing fountain?

It is still a garden. But what is a fountain without a basin into which the water should splash? It is a half-dressed guest at the wrong party. And such has been the fate of my fountain ... until now.

I bought a Japanese-style "deer-chaser" fountain, and a pump, two years ago. I had hoped to make a sort of pond out of a small cat litter tray, but it really didn't work out. I had it running anyway, but the bright blue plastic rather spoiled the effect.

Last year, I didn't try to run the fountain at all. I searched in stores and on-line for just the right bowl, but I didn't see anything I liked at a price I could justify.

Then I saw this "koi pond" on The only problem was that it's made of cast concrete and weighs about 20 lbs. Normally, concerns about global warming would stop me from having something so heavy freighted all the way across the country. But since they were offering free shipping, those qualms went out the window (or up the smoke stack) and I clicked "buy." Now it's here, and while I wish it were a little deeper, I like it a lot.

Can you see the "koi" at the bottom?

[Click on any image for a magnified view.]

Why is it called a "deer-chaser"?

The middle bamboo tube is enclosed on the end, and pivots on an axle. When the tube fills with enough water, it tips down, the water pours out, and then the tube tilts back, knocking as it hits the prop at the back. That "knock" is supposed to chase away deer. Maybe it worked with Japanese deer hundreds of years ago, but I don't think today's deer would give it a second thought.

I like the name the four-year-old boy next door has given it: "man peeing." (As in, "It looks like a man peeing.")

[Watch the video below to see and hear the fountain in action. Apologies for the airplane sound overhead.]

I've been wondering about how to keep the mosquitos from laying eggs in the water when the fountain isn't running. I thought maybe setting one of Owen's Playmobil boats adrift might do the trick.


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Thursday, June 19, 2008

June issues forth

Roses (or Rose, as the case may be)

After a spell of crazy hot weather, the garden is now licking its wounds, and, thanks to plenty of rain and a dose of nice weather, doing okay. (I know how concerned you were.) It's June again in Brooklyn, and that means roses.

[Click on any image for a magnified view.]

The first bloom of roses, which was plentiful and luxurious, got scorched. This time around they're holding back. There is only one rose right now.

Oh ye of little faith!

Admit it, you thought that the dogwood was a dud. You thought it was DOA and would end as expensive compost fodder. Not so fast, sister!

Maybe it was just waiting for that wave of 99-degree weather before coming into its own. If so, it will be quite happy in our Brooklyn backyard. We get lots of that 99-degree weather, just usually in August, not June.

* * *

Personally, I had no idea what mullein was capable of. I'm pretty impressed! It's got to be about five feet tall now.

Another mullein plant is a bit behind, but looking nice as well.

Gaura and friends

I didn't even know that gaura existed until Robert gave me this plant last year for Mothers Day or our anniversary or something.

This variety is called "Ballerina" and Robert picked it out for me because at the time, I was finishing up a book about ballerinas. (Ballerina Dreams: A True Story, published by Feiwel & Friends). I really like it -- sort of wild and refined at the same time. It has just started blooming.

Other friends are still getting warmed up. The hollyhock is stretching up and soon it will bloom for the first time -- I only planted it last year.

And then there is the Mystery Plant #2. Its buds are starting to form. I keep expecting to have my memory jogged -- after all, I am the one who bought it and planted it -- but I'm still at a loss.

They call me spready ...

Ah, lamium. It never holds back, it just leaps at life, and anything else it encounters. Usually I pull some out every other day or so, but I left it just so that I could take this photo and write about it here. (Pathetic, I know.)

This is what it was doing a few weeks ago. Actually, I weeded it heavily after this photo; since then it's come back, and then some.

Jolanta is my dear neighbor who first gave me a little clump of lamium a few years ago, duly warning me of its homesteading tendencies. Jolanta, if you are reading this, please don't take my good-natured rants personally. Do forgive me, as I have forgiven you. ;-)

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Of Cups and Roses

About four years ago, I planted cupflower (Nierembergia) under the forsythia. Since then, it has hardly ever bloomed. Last year, I don't think it bloomed at all. It has not exactly manifested as "rapidly spreading low plants, smothered in upward facing, cup shaped white flowers all season long," as promised. I'm not sure if the problem has been too much or too little, or of what. Sun? Water? Nutrients? Working in organic fertilizer didn't help last year. Doing nothing seems to have done the trick this year. (And cutting back the forsythia.)

Cupflower in its proper glory (just the beginning, one hopes).

[Click on any image for a magnified view.]

Meanwhile, the roses are starting to do their thing. (In truth, these photos were taken almost a week ago, at the end of May, and their thing has since come along a bit.)

I always like to document the First Rose of Summer. It's always on this bush, which has particular meaning to me. When we bought this house five years ago, we closed on October 30, right before Halloween (and a week before my 40th birthday). When we got back from the closing, even though it was very late I went over to the house with the key to take a proprietary look around. After taking lots of photos of the fake-wood-paneled, shag-carpeted, suspended-ceiling-hung interior, I switched on the backyard light, waded through the chest-high weeds, and came to this rose bush -- or tree, since it was almost ten feet tall. I was amazed to see (and smell) a number of pink blooms and some buds as well. In fact, it bloomed into December. (Then it abruptly stopped, as one of the coldest winters in a long time settled in. With all those old, drafty windows, it wasn't only the roses that shivered that winter.)

Of the original eight rose bushes we inherited with the house, we now have only two, the pink and this yellow one. It blooms later and less, but the scent is so lovely. Here, it needs another five days or so to start opening.

Our neighbor's roses are already going gangbusters.
But we're not envious. Not a bit.

On the other side, our neighbors have a stunning fig tree. It produces more figs than the bunch of us can keep up with. However, the squirrels are happy to do their part.

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