Thank you for all the funny things you said about the man sampler! We were cracking up all day long at the comments. I feel nervous now about how I insisted that beginners just need more motivation than skillz. You might need a little bit more than that. We'll talk about it.
It's May 11 and the sampler kits are completely sold out now — thank you again so very, very much for your orders. As I've mentioned, we are aiming to ship everything sometime in mid-June, and I will keep you posted here on the blog as to our progress. The downloadable PDF of the pattern and instructions only will be available in the next few weeks — I'll try to get that together as soon as I possibly can and will definitely let you know when it's ready.
Right now there's a sense of calm before the storm around here. All of our supplies for the kits are on order; we wait, ears flicking forward, for the sound of the UPS truck stopping in front of the house to drop off fabric, or needles, or crewel wool, or hoops, or anything. No such luck yet. It's still cold and rainy, but decided to use the time to work on the yard a little bit, and see if we couldn't get it in shape for spring a bit early. It's so cold it still feels early.
I was looking at some old pictures of our house and yards the other day. They were taken right when we bought this house, in 2000. There was almost nothing about the yard then that we have kept. If I had known what a "fixer" was back then, I would've definitely called it a fixer. For one thing, most of the property was covered in horrideous bark dust — the big orangey kind. There was no weed barrier beneath it: We bought in February; by July the weeds were more than knee-high and couldn't even be mowed (because of all the big chunks of bark dust). The yard was also just filled with diseased rhododendrons and other unhealthy plants. It all looked very newly planted, too, or at least like things had been recently moved around quite a bit for its sale. It has, without exaggeration, taken us ten years to get rid of all of that stuff and get both the front and back yards to be nice and average and healthy.
Let's just say we had (and have) a lot lot more motivation than skillz.
Eventually we got rid of all of the barkdust in the back yard, and planted grass. That grew for one year and then by the next year looked atrocious because there is a lot of shade in our backyard. So out it came, except for one little patch of it, which we frequently put a blanket down on to lay in the sun and read. It's the only spot of consistent sun in the yard. Everywhere else, Andy put down gravel. (There are before and after photos and a bit of explanation here.) And this turned out to be a great decision. We really, really love it.
Now most of the plantings in the back yard are containers. Except for a wall of climbing hydrangeas against the garage and a row of shrub hydrangeas against the back fence, I think almost everything else in the back yard (except the trees) is in a container. This works for me.
Some of the containers have perrenials, most of them have annuals. Several have herbs like sage and thyme or plants like lavendar and lemon verbena (I think that's what it's called). I have no plan. At the beginning of the season I just get a bunch of stuff and Andy sticks it all in the pots. I like things to look a bit wild and free lately. A hippie garden. Basil and warm-weather stuff will be planted later. But this week has been a start.
A bank dropped off baby tomato plants on everyone's porch the other day as a marketing tool (?), so we planted the tomato in a pot, even though it seems a little early. But hopefully she'll be okay.
About four years ago, the neighbors to the back were moving and decided to replace the fence we shared. We planted a row of shrub hydrangeas along it that were supposed to get to between four and six feet, ultimately. They've been very slow to get going; there is not a lot of sun back there and they are just growing right out of the gravel-covered soil. They seem happy, and flower profusely, but they're just kind of dinky. A few days ago I had an idea to assemble some bottomless cedar planters — little raised beds — and grow some annual vines up the back of the fence, behind the dinky hydrangeas.
So Andy built me some pretty little cedar planters, and we got some trellises and put them up.
Each planter cost less than $10 to build, and we will let them weather naturally so they will turn gray. We found two really old, lichen-covered trellises at the Rebuilding Center for $2 each. Then we found two other handmade screens at Garden Fever for $50 each. These screens are so beautiful. They are made out of budding branches — I don't know what kind of tree the branches are from. Whoever made them attached lichen and moss to the lattice and the whole thing looks like some sort of fairy gate. Just really pretty.
I'm going to start some pinkish black-eyed-Susan vine called 'Blushing Susie' (my mom and Andy's mom are both Sues, and my little sissy's name is Susie :-) from seed (!) and some hyacinth bean. Might not be enough sun for them, but I'll try. Probably try to grown some lettuces or something, too.
Since the fence does not belong to us, I wanted to make sure that our trellises were fairly minimal. But I might run a few vertical wires on the sides of the trellises if the vines look like they need to spread out a bit.
We'll see. I think they look so pretty right now, just plain, too. I was going to say something else but I forgot what it was.