04.03.18 | PLANTING

Between two ferns

This is what you might expect a new plant to look like when you remove it from a thin plastic container. But look closely and you’ll see it has a few cuts on the side, from my hori-hori blade. These roots were so dense that I had to rip the container off of them, and still I couldn’t pry them loose. This deer fern was snug.

Here’s another one, which I purchased at the same time a few weeks ago. They were on sale (~$5), so I grabbed a couple to add to the area I described in this post. Both plants have been waiting in their spots for me to dig a hole, and I thought maybe they were just dry despite the recent rain. But the one on the right acted as I’d expected. After a few cuts it popped open, the soil crumbled away, and the roots were ready to go.

Usually, I loosen new plants to the extent that they’re almost bare root. If there’s any risk in doing that, I feel like it’s worth it so that I can learn about the root system and help it grow the way it should. Others might see the plant on the left as fine, roughen the sides slightly, and drop the block in.

And that’s what I ultimately had to do. After plenty of water and wiggling, the matted roots wouldn’t budge. I suspect both plants will be content in their new setting, like my other deer ferns. I’ll resist the temptation to dig them up next year and compare their legs.

Blechnum spicant under Mahonia nervosa

The Books of March

04.03.18 A monthly reading list and recommendations

Savings Account

03.23.18 I let a plant stay and collected its seeds

03.14.18 | ROCKS

The wall, year two

I started stacking stones again. My retaining wall project began last year, on March 25, by demolishing the existing rockery with my dad. A week later it continued when I rented a truck and picked up three yards of gravel with my friend Matt. And the real fun began when six tons of stones were delivered to the front yard, on May 9. I hit pause on the work in late July, to build stairs that run through the wall, and all drystack work ceased over the winter. But this week, thanks to a few spring-like days, I reaquainted myself with the quartzite.

My pace has already picked up considerably. Over the winter, I read a couple books from mastercraftsman Dan Snow and I’ve had plenty of time to dwell on a quote from In the Company of Stone:

Stone is picked up and placed: no exchanges, no returns, and no regrets. Giving each stone a second chance to find its home doubles the building time. Three chances make a job take three times as long as it needs to. The first stone you decide to use may not be the best of the three, if three were allowed, but as long as it is structurally acceptable, it stays. The place to make improvements over a potential mistake is with the next stone. Progress is made by recognizing faults and using the knowledge of them to make the next choice a better one.

Progress as mantra. I’m not wasting as much time, and I’m shaking my perfectionist urges. Now I’m optimistic that the main 50′ section of the wall will be done this spring.

03.13.18 | RANT

Very beautiful and very wonderful

Lately, I’ve been thinking about making a garden publication. In large part because too many existing major publications1 bother me for the same reason. I usually frame it like this, to friends: “The covers are always so beautiful — ‘beauty’ this and ‘beauty’ that. And flowers. Look at all these flowers. Look at all these beautiful flowers in this untouched garden.” And if not that, then the magazines are all-in on urban farming. Not that there’s anything wrong with urban farming, it just seems like there are but two options: a glorious garden or chickens. Look at this beautiful chicken.

I could go on, but the new issue of Garden Design arrived yesterday and it does a marvelous job of exemplifying the kind of meaningless, saccharine covers that make me want to go outside and barf. Featuring…

  • Beauty & Wonder (just add it)
  • Perfectly Modern (pots)
  • The Joy of (kitchen gardening)
  • Simple Steps to a Gorgeous Garden (duh)

Also, please don’t forget to take refuge and to rejuvenate. As well as grow the fabulous and plant the fanciful. It’s a sublime life, starting at $12.95. What could be better?

  1. In particular, the quarterly Pacific Horticulture is exempt from this rant. It’s closest I’ve seen to an ideal garden publication. It’s on the thin side, but it doesn’t publish false hope or dangle ideas that are only obtainable with one million dollars. ↩︎