26 April 2010

the garden of misfit toys, pt. 1

I apologize for the shadows in some of these pictures -- but if I waited for ideal lighting conditions, I'd get distracted by something shiny & forget altogether. And then where would we be? Probably in the same location, physically, but photoless. Photoless, people! And I refuse to let that happen.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right -- outside. Scavenging on Craigslist for free things. It turns out that there are a lot of people re-doing their outdoorsy areas this time of year. And most of them hate to see things get thrown away. So if you're willing to put in a little work (aka dig it out of the ground yourself), you can take it away for free. For free, people! I know! That's totally my favorite price!

First up: the papyrus. I drove down to Long Beach to get this, from a very nice man who wanted it out of his yard. It was raining that day, but by some miracle I managed to get to the digging just as the weather went to "heavy mist that threatened to start pouring again any moment." So I tried to work fast. And discovered that papyrus is effing hard to dig up. There was a lot of sweating involved, and more swearing than I'll get specific about since some of our family members read this blog (hi!). Suffice to say that by the time I was headed home with 5 giant trash bags full of plants & rhizomes (the rooty-type things), there was no way I was putting them into the ground that same day. I didn't care if it could survive overnight that way -- I was willing to take a chance on having just driven 15 miles to do some manual labor for a complete stranger. I was that tired.

Good news: it lived! Well, kinda. The green bits turned brown after a few days, and we had a lovely bunch of stick-looking things lining our front fence. But I persisted, and we currently have new growth! (I feel like a mad scientist at times: "It's ALIVE!!!") Hopefully it'll get with the growing quickly, and start covering up the ugly wrought iron fence.

Next up: the agave. The former owner of these just had too many of them to deal with -- and the mother plant who threw off these "babies" was a 25-foot-across monster. These make me happy because I basically just jammed them in the ground -- no mulch, special soil, fertilizer or any of that. You've gotta love desert plants. (Incidentally, we're aiming for all drought-tolerant stuff, for obvious reasons. But it turns out that some of them need extra water &/or attention while it's getting established in a new place. Like that sneaky papyrus.)

I thought it was wise to put them against the wall, since they have pokey bits. The big one is presiding over something that's really cool: our firesticks.

Those are an African-type succulent with a really bad-ass defense mechanism. If you break off part of it, it emits this white milky stuff -- lots of it -- that itches like crazy (or so I was told -- I'm not eager to test it, so I just stay a respectful distance away & say complimentary things. I don't want it to turn on me.)

The same guy who gave me the firesticks was super-generous -- when he heard that we were just getting started on our yard, he gave me a bunch of other stuff and told me how to care for it. (The plant people are, thus far, kind of amazing.) Lots of jade plants:

(better pics to come), a bunch of aloe & a cactus that's supposed to grow white flowers,

and several snake plants.

Like I said: amazing. And so far, they're all thriving (by which I mean Not Dead). So hooray on all accounts!

Lastly, there are a few things that I (gasp!) paid for. But I bought them from people who were thinning out their own gardens, for super-cheap. (We have thus far spent about $85 on plants, and this post isn't even half of it.) Here, we have a bunch of cannas (the whale tail-looking things) and fortnight lilies (the fan-shaped ones) with some purple apple ground cover in between. These want more water than the other stuff, and they're being pretty damn coy about whether or not they're happy ... but yesterday I saw new growth on the cannas. The ground cover is another story -- it's turned yellow in some places, but it's also spreading and producing new flowers -- so I have no idea what to think. (In case it wasn't already abundantly clear, I spend a lot of my outdoors time confused.)

And I also got 2 hibiscus plants, which are staying exactly the same size but not visibly ailing. Brats.

There was also a cutting of an angel's trumpet that did really well for a few days ... but it's clearly dead now. Sorry, no photo of that -- it's too depressing.

24 April 2010

I, scavenger

I've been outside a lot lately. And I've learned many things -- firstly, that I'm better at applying sunscreen than bug spray. Secondly, that the jury's still out regarding my ability to keep outdoorsy-plants amongst the living.

Allow me to explain: I have a unique ability to kill houseplants. It's extreme -- so much so, that I've used it as an excuse when people ask me why I don't have children. It's a talent that I believe I inherited from my mom (and in direct contrast to both of our talents when it comes to furry, four-legged types, I hasten to add.) I know that as I child I saw her dehydrate a cactus, and she may have supervised the expiration of a silk plant or two. And I am definitely her daughter when it comes to matters botanical. If ficuses had post offices, my picture would be on posters there.

But: I've heard that these things are easier out-of-doors. Or "easier", at any rate. As one might expect, I'm a bit hesitant to dive right into an expensive landscaping scheme before I properly evaluate my own planticidal tendencies ... which has led me to the greatest source of free-except-for-the-hassle-factor greenery on the planet: Craigslist.

The upside: we won't be out more than gas money if stuff dies. (Okay, fine: "if".) The downside: my strategy is at the mercy of what's being offered, an how well eHow.com advises me on not killing it. So we're sort of building ourselves the Garden of Misfit Toys. But I believe in my little freak plants. Even the ones that insist on looking a bit like they need some caffeine & a plant brassiere (you know -- for the drooping).

Pictures tomorrow -- it was too dark tonight, by the time I'd finished today's transplant. Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on my yard.

10 April 2010

the great outdoors

When last we chatted, the yard was looking like this:Better than weed-a-palooza, perhaps, but still leaving "a bit" to be desired. Enter the heavy machinery!!
For the record: yes, the nice men at Home Depot will laugh at you, the scrawny blonde chick, as they help you load the giant roto-tiller into your Beetle. And yes, you "may" need to call the Mr. at work when you get it home & realize that you cannot get it out of your car unassisted. And it's definitely a bad idea to use your body weight to steer it, since it weighs considerably more than you do, especially when your job requires you to wear shorts most of the time and you have to explain repeatedly that "No, nobody is beating me."

BUT: once you take all of that into consideration, you have yourself a fun and noisy (Zöe was not pleased) way to make sure those weeds don't come back!
Why is it that when most people picture "woman gardening" in their heads, it involves someone genteel in a sun hat amongst lots of flowers, but when I try it, it involves heavy machinery that could maim a person? Also, why do my arms look like they belong on a dude in this picture? WTF?!?

Ahem. Moving along. So: after 2 days of tilling, during which both the Mr. & I pretty much exhausted ourselves in an effort to avoid paying another day's rental fee, we had clean tilled dirt. And my daily scouring of Craigslist began to pay off.
Thanks to D. in Hacienda Heights, who wanted his river rocks gone so he could plant some grass. (Free, folks -- my favorite price!)

And thanks to S. in Reseda, who's re-doing her backyard & wanted her Heavenly Bamboo gone. Bonus: it's not actually bamboo, which means it won't attack the foundation & sidewalk. Also: another freebie (plus a little manual labor to dig them out of the ground.)

That's the reverse angle.

And since I tend to get overly excited about things, I figured I may as well build some raised garden beds, where we can plant things that smell good and may even turn out to be edible:
I found the instructions online -- they're upside down here, waiting for me to dig holes for the corner pegs. And yes, the nice men at Home Depot will laugh at you as you cram a few 10'-long boards into your Beetle. Why does everyone keep mistaking me for a damsel in distress, I wonder? Not only am I not distressed (at the moment, anyway), but I'm pretty sure I don't even qualify as a damsel ....

Oh, and just because we're so effing proud of ourselves: We seem to have finished the kitchen!
Well, except for the stove & a table. But those can wait until we get our tax refund ... unless I find 'em for free on Craigslist.