The hydrangea, the owl, the dead grass

Early morning, chilly but clear, and a woman wanders among the amazing plant displays at the Portland Nursery. She is alert with coffee AND in possession of a birthday gift-certificate.

Another clematis? I think not. No room in the clematis inn.  Something for the shady fence though. Climbing hydrangea Moonlight? Cell phone search finds a post from Carolyn’s Shade Garden. Carolyn totally recommends this vine. Deal done.

I love it.

I planted it here, with lots of fence in both directions for coming seasons, shady sun one side and shady shade on the other.

Japanese climbing hydrangea

But wait, there’s more–

A sudden deep subconscious undefined need demands purchase of a concrete owl. (No, I do NOT know why.)  The sweet nursery employee with a British accent cheerfully loads up the very heavy owl, along with what I now think of as Carolyn’s vine.  And except for the owl kind of sliding around in the Insight’s hatchback during sharp corners (dog being also in the back, it made him a little nervous) we got home okay and didn’t get arrested or anything, having just updated the car license stickers after a police warning about the December expiration.  (Time flies.)

Owl in his new habitat:

worried concrete owlI know he looks a little stressed–the sweet man at the nursery suggested Prozac which I guess is what they use professionally with anxious statuary in general but I may try sprinkling on a little rum instead since that’s what I have in the medicine cabinet.

But back to the gardens.

So Alistair in Scotland once recommended the Burkwood viburnum, which I bought and almost killed through dehydration and then moved, and this year it bloomed.

Burkwood viburnum

The flowers are the softest pink opening fully to white and the scent is unique but wonderful like lilacs with an aftertaste of marshmallow and plums. I love it –thanks Alistair!– (I didn’t really eat it).

In case you are wondering how my pine tree bed expansion is coming along I will report that I have done nothing.

Moving on to the vegetable garden, it came to my attention that my VGBP (Vegetable Garden Beautification Project) had fallen prey to evil grasses, death and weeds, a powerful pack of adversaries.

not pretty[Oh those arrows. They got too big so I wrote on them.]

Immediately if not sooner I put on my Super Garden-Woman cape,  and I put Max’s little Super Garden-Dog cape on him too, and we decided this was a case for cardboard and sawdust, a kind of abbreviated version of lasagna gardening.

First I brought out the loss:  a Ninebark shrub that received too much sun and too little water.  RIP.

Ninebark shrub doing poorly

Next I shall attempt to delineate my version of the complex lasagna bed process.

Slap down a bunch of flattened cardboard while saying “take that you grassy opportunists” then toss on all the sawdust that’s been accumulating in Mr O’s shop sawdust collector machine…

lasagna sawdust…which I happen to know will remain orange all summer so then sprinkle a load of Compost Variety Mix (leaves, grass clippings, ashes)…

lasagna garden topping

…which I carefully extracted from what is not just the compost pile but rather the compost district or perhaps the compost county— honestly I cannot even photograph it for you for lack of a wide angle lens plus it’s embarrassing.

Overall this layering process was disturbingly reminiscent of the “ghost tour” of York (England) I attended once, where the guide described a woman who was executed in the street by being flattened under a weighted board. (There is simply no part of life that is guilt-free, so far as I can tell.)


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in composting, stuff for your garden that isn't plants, vegetable garden and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to The hydrangea, the owl, the dead grass

  1. Holleygarden says:

    That’s how I lasagna garden, too – same saying! But, without the sawdust. Love the Carolyn vine, and the little owl. Poor little thing does look like he’s been whisked away to an alien planet. I hope he soon realizes what a wonderful home he now has.

    • linniew says:

      Well Holley you aren’t the only person who thinks my place is an alien planet. I must admit there is slightly less gravitational pull here so it’s a little easier to dig and responsibilities weigh less too.

  2. Susan says:

    I spent today planning the garden for one of the houses on our shortlist, the one my husband doesn’t really want, and we will probably not buy. None the less, I realize the climbing hydrangea will be perfect for the shaded fence at the front. Six months of garden deprivation has left me looking like your owl. I will carry a bottle of rum into the bathroom tonight and sprinkle on the cure.

  3. I’m not sure whether to hope the owl will take on a happier mien in time – after all, it’s slightly disconcerting when concrete statuary changes its facial expression without manipulation in form of a chissel and hammer – but I do hope it will at least feel happier.

    The hydrangea looks quite happy as-is, so long may that continue! And as for the grass… Well, I’m sure that poor woman in York didn’t deserve the press, but I’m equally sure that grass in the wrong place deserves anything and everything we can throw at it. (Or, as your case is, lay upon it.)

    • linniew says:

      Oh yes I have great hope for the owl therapy. We have lots of live owls in the nearby woods and certainly they will work with this stressed owl and he will calm. That and the rum. And no problem about the grass/door issues: I already don’t care anymore and am just pleased as punch to have the grass missing!

  4. kininvie says:

    Is the owl somewhere that he can chat to Flora? She’ll cheer him up. The viburnum looks great. I had a beauty, but it succumbed to an entirely unprovoked insect attack which I didn’t notice until all its leaves fell off. Since it was summer at the time, I considered it odd. Anyway, it died. You might get some nice autumn colour from it too.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie
      Flora could maybe wave at the owl, which might help I suppose. I will hope for autumn color on the viburnum, assuming the leaves stay on this one. (I will have a chat with it about not being provocative.)

  5. Your owl no doubt is a victim of weird facial contortions and not heeding parental advice
    about stopping or getting stuck that way. Ironically, observation of life in the PNW will most likely continue to draw that same wide-eyed Botox-inspired expression from the owl. It obviously is not a hoot owl.

    ‘Moonlight’ is indeed lovely, but is not truly a hydrangea you do know, but Schizophragma… True climbing hydrangea need years to actually mature and come into flower.

    So glad Max endured!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Rachelle
      You know I read the nursery tag and did wonder but I failed to stop and look this up (not unusual). It showed a common name of Japanese Hydrangea Vine and the Latin name Schizophragma hydrangeoides. Here is more discussion of the differences between true climbing hydrangea and the vine I bought. They are very similar, but I am pleased to have the Japanese vine — sounds like it will cling better to my fence, and I love the silvery leaves on “Moonlight”.

      • I would agree with you, you’ve made the better choice.

        I once met a 94 year old woman who was in on the start of the Chicago Botanical Gardens and gardened on a double lot near where I once lived. She planted an actual climbing hydrangea (in shade, as recommended) and ended up waiting until she was 93 for the first blooms. It may explain her long life. Of course, at 94 she had a garden boy to help her (He was in his sixties.).

        A good gardening friend of mine had just bought one of these (climbing hydrangea) shortly before hearing this tale. Putting our heads together, we decided full sun might be the better course. It bloomed in three years. (Of course, the actual climbing hydrangea was fantastic, although I’m not sure it balances out the wait.)

        • linniew says:

          Great story! I do not aspire to 94 years, and I have no patience… I believe my Carolyn’s Vine should show some major growth in three years, and hopefully a flower. Makes me happy to think of it.

  6. Lyn says:

    Love the vine, love the viburnum, love the sheet mulching (it even got rid of those pesky arrows), but I’m a bit concerned about the owl. He looks very frightened, and I’m not sure rum is the best idea. Maybe some warm milk for him? I’m sure you’ll think of something else to do with the rum.

    • linniew says:

      Yeah I was worried about the arrows but they are under the cardboard now. I’ve been reading stories to the owl and it turns out he likes fajitas.

  7. I don’t know if I can handle the responsibility of this vine. However, since I have no daughter’s and you are naming it after me, I will accept. Do I have to sign something? I love the expression on the owl. Prozac or rum might change its disposition but I might try them on my husband.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Carolyn!
      Just loving your vine…Thank you! No need to sign anything, I have your blog testimony.
      It was so fun (and reassuring) to have you at the nursery with me!

      Concrete owls might be easier to manage than husbands–but rum is a powerful treatment…

  8. mulishandcompany says:

    Well, for one, who doesn’t like fajitas? and two, I couldn’t help but notice (by following your link) that Portland Nursery is “elder friendly”. What does that mean, exactly? Were you issued a walker at the door? Apparently my nursery is NOT elder friendly or they wouldn’t have that demonic flock of birds that chased me out of the lower garden area. Oh, sure, I played a recording of a guinea hen that I had on my iphone but still, those things should be kept away from the public and those tempted to antagonize them! I am charmed by your owl. My buddha is forever sleeping, eyes closed, under his artichoke plant, perhaps intoxicated by the aroma of spearmint that is encroaching upon his sitting area. Sure, visitors assume he is in deep meditation but even I have mastered the art of sleeping upright for brief periods of time in a very similar pose. The owl would be a good addition here. For vigilance. Or at least as a witness to the sheer horror that I inflict upon the greenery.

    • linniew says:

      Gosh Roberta I thought Boardwalk Empire was scary but it’s nothing compared to your garden life! So you played the guinea hen recording to what? to antagonize the wild birds? I bet when you were little and went to the zoo you got in trouble at the tiger exhibit… I didn’t know my nursery was ‘elder friendly’ but they let me in so yes. No walkers, just those little wagons but the nice man took care of that part too. Interesting that your artichoke buddha is napping– I know a bay tree buddha who is awake and laughing, you just never know with buddhas.

      • mulishandcompany says:

        I was once admonished by zoo officials for braiding the beard of a goat and similarly scolded at the observatory for adding stars to the didactic panel. It was on a chalk board, mind you, nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Adults can be so…rigid. Plus they expect 20 yr olds to drop their youthful ways at 18 and become full fledged adults posthaste. That was a good 20 or 30 years ago.
        In January, I played a recording of Le Bete to the wild guineas at the nursery I like to visit. They attempted to descend upon me bodily, causing me to run, gasping for air, up the dirt path. I’ll eventually be banned if I keep this sort of thing up.

  9. Alberto says:

    So that other ‘thing’ I can see from Google maps just next to Mount Hood is your compost pile, right?
    Reminiscent from a brief passion for hydrangeas, may I correct you about that Moonlight? It is not an actual hydrangea but a schizophragma hydrangeoides, they’re strictly related, though. Schizophragma grows quicker and flowers more and I just love Moonlight leaves colour. Anyway you seem so used to buy what people write in their blogs but fortunately other bloggers don’t buy all you write in your blog… I won’t buy any plaster owl for instance. Nor even a bat’s tree or whatever it was. Did it sprout at last?

    • linniew says:

      Yes the compost pile is just slightly smaller than Hood. (It’s still a bit snowy at the top and there were some skiers yesterday…) I’m so hydrangea-educated now, by you and Rachelle, but I do wish MY hydrangea didn’t have that schizoid-sounding name — I will just call it Carolyn’s Vine and avoid all that. And no I DID NOT get bat’s tree (or whatever it was) seeds, you are making that up Alberto. You might need a concrete owl, just as mental ballast. xo L

  10. Hi Linnie, The “after” VGBP is very nice. I don’t think there is any reason to feel guilty about killing grass. It has, as I’m sure you know, a tenacious penchant for resurrection.

    Would you believe I damn near killed my Ninebark last year by doing the same thing? They are not at all drought tolerant. Mine, (miraculously) leafed out this year so I’m going to try and be a better human being and keep it sufficiently watered. We do have our challenges don’t we, gardening where there is no rain for three to four months of the year.

    Nice choice on the Hydrangea/Schizophragma whatever thingie. I like!

    I’ll email soon. How are you doing?

    • linniew says:

      Hey Gracie Awesome Author!
      I believe you have a book signing coming up, and another book too. (You are my hero.)

      I guess the ninebark is truly an understory plant, and doesn’t like hot afternoon sun and a thoughtless gardener who forgets to water. Who knew? I’m glad your shrub is recovering. Fortunately I have several of these plants doing well in shadier places.

      Yes email soon!

  11. We have a concrete chicken, so I can understand about the owl.

    • linniew says:

      Thank heaven I’m not the only one with a concrete bird. But I don’t think I’ve seen chicken ones. I try to keep an eye out because I’ll need one for Roberta’s grave when she dies–for some reason she is keen on chickens as graveyard ornamentation…

      • mulishandcompany says:

        A deep, dark fear is growing inside and I wonder if I revealed too much with that cemetery post. There is a murmuring amongst blog readers that a collection of chicken statuary may be accumulating for my grave. Had I known my legacy would be forever tied to gallus gallus domesticus I would have chosen more wisely. I may have to start raving over the delicate sparrow, the lovely spring robin or the bluebirds of happiness just to throw you all off-track.

      • We bought ours at an antiques and oddities store in St. Paul, MN, where our younger son lives. The owner made the chicken himself, and explained how he had reinforced the beak with steel so that it wouldn’t fall off. The store has since gone out of business, which is really hard to understand.

        • linniew says:

          How on earth could a store featuring steel-reinforced-beak chickens ever go out of business? I hope you treasure your concrete chicken; I will have to keep looking because really Roberta deserves the best.

  12. Katie says:

    Happy Birthday!
    Whenever that was for you. I know the look on that owl’s face. It’s the same one I see each morning in the mirror when I think about what will happen to me this August. Some birthdays are just plain scary.

    • linniew says:

      Well Katie that’s the damn truth about scary birthdays. Mine was actually in December and was a particularly frightening one and no I don’t want to talk about it.

      But maybe that owl is old too…

  13. b-a-g says:

    That owl reminds me of an ancient egyptian hieroglyphic. I wonder if they invented hypertufa …

    • linniew says:

      Oh b-a-g, a hieroglyphic? I like that. We must assign it a meaning, if it doesn’t already have one. I recall that owls are said to travel between the living and the dead. Perhaps it represents the notion that some stuff in my garden is alive and some is dead, which is accurate at least.

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