Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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I spent all Easter gardening —

And by “all Easter”, I mean of course all weekend. Lessee. No little kids, so no Easter egg hunts (I do regret the lack of small children around holidays, but there you are — though I’m sure the dogs wouldn’t mind if I hid sugar eggs for them. Or liver eggs!)

Anyway! Planted the new astilbes that just arrived — I want to create a river of astilbes down the dry stream bed beside my house.

Folly posing at the beginning of the dry stream bed

That stream bed continues around the corner of the house and right down through the yard, past the fence and down the hill. The rocks turn from nice pretty round manicured rocks to big rough boulders, because luckily a neighbor has a small bulldozer which we used to move really big rocks into place just after the house was finished.

I’ll take a picture of the astilbes when they’re up, though they’ll be small this year. Also I thought about what else to plant down along that stream bed, but of course thinking doesn’t count. Plus the nursery accidentally sent me a Chaenomeles ‘Cameo’, which is not what I ordered. Naturally they’re sending the shrub I actually ordered and naturally they’re allowing me to keep the flowering quince, which I am not a huge fan of flowering quince, but if I were going to get one? It would in fact be ‘Cameo.’ So I wandered around looking for a place to put it and finally planted it over to the side of the flowers bordering the orchard. If it’s happy there and looks nice, maybe I’ll get a couple more to keep it company.

I moved the poor little climbing hydrangea vine. Its tree died. For no reason at all. Just poof! Dead. A hickory, maybe thirty or forty years old. We’ve had the odd tree die for no reason before — a couple really big hickories and a few young oaks, like thirty years old, and two perfectly fine willows. Sometimes mysterious things happen. But why to a tree where I planted a somewhat tricky and very slow-growing vine? That was just unfair. Luckily the vine is young, but it hurt me to cut off all its tendrils and hack it out of the ground. I hope it survives and recovers and starts up its new host tree. It’d be nice to see it flower before I die of old age.

But I can plant a new tree where the hickory used to be! That part will be fun! But what? A dove tree? A silverbell? A kousa dogwood? Maybe even a paperbark maple? Choices, choices . . . my life is so tough, having to narrow down the list to just one! Maybe there’s room around the place for all four if I just walk around and stare at the landscape long enough?

Too much shade and too dry for anything demanding

But doesn’t this give a great sense of space? We’re moving the pathway that used to run through this area because obviously the Vinca minor vines are eating the old pathway. Dad built that gazebo.

Check out the other side of this area as you come around my parent’s house:

These spirea? They’re ordinary Vanhoutte spirea, an excellent choice. These particular shrubs are cuttings off the bush that my grandfather planted for my grandmother when they got married. Isn’t that something? I took several more cuttings this spring to extend the white white white blizzard of flowers down farther toward the pond.

Back over at my place, I dug a bed for the kerria cuttings I made last year. I’ll move ’em as soon as they stop flowering or next week, whichever comes first. Love those things. Hard to complain about a really easy shrub that puts on a show you can see from 100 feet away! I have plans to make a lot more cuttings ASAP, which is why the established cuttings need to move. I’ve got the ordinary double, ‘Flora Plena’, I think.

Weeded, of course.

The low-growing stuff in front will produce white upward-facing flowers soon, and the daisies behind the Japanese maple will flower any day now, and I should take another picture at that point because it’s going to look great! Especially with all the weeds out!

Got all the big weeds out of the butterfly garden in the dog yard, too. Much quicker to write that sentence than do it, I assure you. The butterfly plants are out there not so much for me but for the critters, which is why the yard gets called the dog yard rather than just the back yard. I don’t worry about holes getting dug out there or whatever, either. Cavaliers love chasing butterflies, hence the butterfly garden is out there. Also! Transplanted some butterfly bush seedlings that were not in a convenient spot. Now re-mulching the whole area (also takes longer than you’d think) and thinking about adding a few more butterfly plants out there. Not sure what. Thinking’s cheap. The buy-it-now list tends to shrink when I look at the actual prices of plants.

Tied up the peas in the veggie garden.

The garden won't look this neat and trim in August, believe me.

That’s a polyantha rose in the center, ‘Marie Pavie’, a fabulous pale-pink highly scented rose that appears to be entirely immune to rose rosette, because man have we lost a lot of roses to rose rosette. But not this one.

Also spent time snarling about the weather, which was fabulous but is predicted to turn chilly and thus I am prevented from planting the summer seeds — squash, melons, okra (I like okra, okay?), beans. We’re supposedly at risk of a frost tonight. I trust it won’t happen. There’re thousands of baby apricots and cherries and plums and peaches, so frost would be bad. Luckily we’re up on a hill, so in fact we should stay a few degrees warmer than down below. Plus baby apricots are tougher than you’d think. We’ll see!

And ALL THAT is why I did not touch my computer all weekend! So no writing taking place just now! After the major gardening push or after school gets out, I promise I will get back to work! On something . . .

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6 Comments I spent all Easter gardening —

  1. Elaine T

    Lovely photos. I’ve never seen spirea (that I know of) or most of the other plants you mention, which is one reason I asked for pictures. It looks like your white blizzard will be stunning. Do they bloom all spring and summer?

    What is that grotto-like rock structure surrounded by the spirea?

    i was surprised to look up vinca minor and find that it is something I see around here. (Here being N. California).

  2. Rachel

    I was going to ask you to remind me where you were! Because all kinds of spirea are simply ubiquitous here in the midwest. I expect all the spireas like a cold winter. Vanhoutte is maybe the most old-fashioned, but also my favorite.

    But, no, alas, the spirea flowering season is short. The flowers probably last a couple of weeks, usually overlapping with the dogwoods and Viburnum plicatum tomatosum — doublefile viburnum. Very, very beautiful while they’re in bloom, so we try to appreciate them as much as possible while they’re showy. After the vanhoutte spirea stop blooming, they still do have a nice flowing shape to them. People sometimes prune them into little green meatballs and boxes and that is TERRIBLE because spirea are meant to look like a green fountain.

    The grotto-like structure is . . . a grotto. Mom thought of it because she didn’t like the look of the naked retaining wall, and Dad made it (I helped collect the rocks along the highways). It was supposed to have a waterfall and a pool, but the pool leaked and Dad could never find the leak — and he’s a tremendously handy guy, so if he couldn’t find it, it was pretty well hidden! So we filled up the pool and planted stuff in and around the area. It does look nice. Though I kinda need to weed the area and think about what’s still there and what else I might plant to replace the things that have peetered out. If my plant budget will stretch that far. Which it probably won’t.

    I’m impressed by Vinca minor’s adaptability. Wow. It’s a great vine, a bit invasive, but wonderful for dry shade, where so few things will manage. But if you plant crocuses in it? For heaven’s sake, plant yellow crocuses. The Vinca flowers at the same time as the crocuses, so blue ones will just disappear into the periwinkle-blue Vinca flowers.

    Though you probably can’t grow crocuses?

    And we won’t mention the hours and days and weeks that Mom puts into weeding. No. Everything just looks great all on its own. Really.

  3. Elaine T

    Someone once gave me a some crocus seeds/corms. I planted them. Nothing happened. I’ve also managed to kill Easter Lilies, which I was assured were practically impossible to kill. Well, it’s early yet maybe they’ll reappear later in the year. So it may be my grey thumb, but yes, in my experience crocuses (croci?) don’t grow around here.

    The grotto looks like a great place for a child to sit and read. Our daughter would love it.

    While I was out taking our teenager to the city-owned-demo-farm where she volunteers (it’s in the middle of a huge open space area ) I paid attention to the colors of the non-grassy vegetation: Lots of purple-y blues from ceanothus/California lilac, it grows both wild and in gardens; greenish white Calif bay blossoms (stronger than European laurel in flavor), a fair amount of yellow, pink and reds from various flowers unidentified because we were in the car (although I bet a lot were roses and ronunculus and stock). The wild flowers were also in the purple/blue range, although I remember yellow ones from other years, and, of course, the California poppy, which is famously orange. Didn’t notice any, although they ought to be popping up by now. Not a lot of white around here, except the street trees, which are magnolias, and the jasmine a lot of people have as ground cover. The jacarandas, bouganvillea, tea trees and razzleberries run purple, red, pink and pinker. There used to be a lot of oleander of all colors, but there was a disease killing them, so they’re disappearing. When the wind blew on a long row of mature oleander, they’d billow like waves, and look soft, like pillows. Actually, you wouldn’t want to lie on them, or break branches, the sap is nasty. Lots of lily of the Nile (aka agapanthus, IIRC?) which are all blue, or stella del oros, which are yellow, and seem to be replacing agapanthus in gardens.

    We bottle fed 2-day-old kids. They weren’t cuddly. They were restless and active, even while drinking. Their wool/fur was soft, and felt a bit strange over the extremely firm bodies underneath. I got drafted to help because someone else didn’t come in today, so unless I helped there were three workers and 4 kids.

    I’ve been rereading Coates’ WIDE OPEN, which you recommended. It holds up beautifully on the second round. I respect Hallie and most of the other characters, and the plot is original. IMO. It has a fierceness and focus to it I greatly appreciate.
    It’s much better than the other book we brought home from the library with a female vet home from the Mid-East, THE HUM & THE SHIVER. My husband and I were discussing the two this evening and decided the latter just didn’t do enough with the ideas the writer had – I say it read a bit like the author was lazy. He summed it up as clever but shallow – he’d like it at first, but it didn’t age well with him.

  4. Rachel

    Wow. I wish we could grow jasmine as a groundcover here! I’ve never paid much attention to CA ornamentals because they only inspire jealously. But I will go out and admire our true (syringa) lilacs this afternoon, because I bet there aren’t any in CA.

    Razzleberries! What a name!

    Yes, goats are ready to go at two days! A puppy at two days is almost entirely boring. You know, for the first two weeks, the brain waves of puppies are the same whether they’re awake or asleep? That tells you a lot about newborn puppies right there.

    Glad you loved Deb’s book! I have passed your comments on to her. She’ll be so happy you loved it enough to re-read it already!

  5. Elaine T

    You’re right, I’ve never seen true lilac in California! I had to go to New Mexico for that.
    Wisteria bears a faint resemblance to my memory of lilac, but not very much of one – there’s a fair amount of that (in purple or white, or mixed) around.

    Razzleberries, at least the ones we grow, have intensely pink flowers with lots of very narrow petals. I believe they are also called ‘fringe flower’ and appear to have originated in China. The foliage is interesting, too, in spring a green, aging to a deep bronze-y red, so we always have color from the bush. The photo on the Colesville Nursery site looks pretty accurate (on my monitor). Search for loropetalum and razzleberry.

  6. Rachel

    My mother put a vase of lilacs in my bedroom before I got home. The whole downstairs, particularly the bedroom, is still wonderfully fragrant. That’s something wisteria just can’t duplicate — though I love wisteria.

    I went and looked at razzleberry pictures, thus confirming that I’ve never seen them in person. Sounds like a nice shrub! I can’t think of anything here which has petals much like that, except maybe some of the star magnolia hybrids.

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