Landscaping from the Inside Out is Like Putting a Picture on the Wall

A window picture

A window picture

In September I wrote an article titled, “Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window.” My brother, Tom is a gifted artist and I have had paintings of his on my living room walls for years and years. I think it is fun now that, maybe, I can give him something for his wall. It’s not a picture but it is visible through the living room window.
Back in September, I had sprayed the weeds and set the plants out where they needed to be. Tom’s wife, Sheila, got a person to come and help with the labor a couple of weeks later. The window picture started changing rapidly:

The view changes

The view changes

The plants were installed and cypress chips were spread for an effective and attractive mulch. I like a shredded wood mulch on a hillside, too. It stays in place well and holds other things in place. The mulch also holds moisture well.
I like the way the color of the mulch turned this mountainside front yard into a river-like illusion.

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

I had also marked a lot of scrub trees that needed to be removed. I was happy to see a picture of the finished product. Sheila wanted white flowers and the “Emil Moliere” hydrangeas will make quite a show.

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

Interactions of Tom and Olive remind me of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Olive remarked that things certainly did look different and that there would be no more worry about Tom having an accident while mowing that steep bank.

"Tom's gonna like this 'cause Ma likes it."

“Tom’s gonna like this ’cause Ma likes it.”

Sheila admires things from the street. All is well. Tom is grinning because of “happy wife, happy life,”

No mowing needed on this hillside.

No mowing needed on this hillside.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Pruning and Shaping Techniques for Trees and Shrubs

Every year when the first cool front of October rolls in I get lots and lots of questions about pruning their landscape and house plants. For years I have enjoyed shaping plants while picturing what they will look like next year or after several years have passed.

This week I have gone into my daunting list of past articles on pruning to review. Here are a few of the links. I hope they help.

 

 

 

Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out.

Using Bonsai techniques to prune and shape overgrown shrubs and trees in the landscape.

 

Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai

I got a text message the other day saying that the Japanese maples needed pruning. I had been expecting this so I shifted my schedule around, sharpened my Felco pruning shears, grabbed my camera and headed out.

 

 

Pruning an Overgrown Topiary

I really enjoy creative pruning.

My friend Tommy called me the other day. It seems that we had planted a large yaupon holly tree in his front yard a number of years ago and I shaped it into a topiary form. Tommy has kept it pruned for a number of years but now he is getting too old to want to get on the ladder any more.  Notice the wording—not “too old to get on the ladder”, but “too old to want to get on the ladder.”

 

 

 

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

An Artist Looks at a Writing Spider With a Different Point of View

Even though it was long ago I can still picture the lady. She was bent over and wrinkled. Her skin looked like aged leather. She had a cane that had been carved from a stick that was also bent and twisted from growing with a vine wrapped around it. I was a five-year-old boy growing up in the rural south and I was busy watching, noticing, and learning about the wonders around me.

It is a vivid memory. I was crouched down staring at a most peculiar spider which was spinning a most peculiar web when I heard the old lady’s most peculiar voice as she said, “Don’t point at it.”

“What?” I asked as my hand began moving up to point at the spider. My hand was gently pushed aside by the lady’s cane.

“That’s a writing spider,” she said. “If you point at her she will write your name in the web and you will die.”

Writing spider weaving its web

Writing spider weaving its web

That’s all I remember about that particular conversation but I filed the information in my mind under the category of “things not to do.” At that age, that particular category was not over-crowded. I was brave, terribly brave, and I was much more interested in finding things to do than in finding things not to do. I was definitely not interested in dying because I pointed at a writing spider. I had pirates to sword fight with and dragons to slay. I had paint to spill and track all over the hardwood floors and I had a charred stick that I had rescued from a trash fire that I would use to practice my writing lessons on my grandmother’s white carpet. Yes, I was busy. I had no time to be pointing at spiders.

Thirty years flew by and I was walking around one day with my son, J.R. There was a basic difference in J.R. and I in that I looked at things with the literal leanings of a writer and he was an artist. Actually, J.R., at the age of five, was already an accomplished artist and I have found out over the years that an artist looks at things with a different point of view. As we walked along that day I saw a writing spider. I told J.R. to put his hands in his pockets. He did. Then I told him about pointing at a writing spider. I passed on what the old lady had told me when I was about his age. And, believe me, I made sure he didn’t point at that spider. I didn’t want him to die from a spider pointing while I was in charge—what would I tell his mother?

Then, thirty more years went by like a bat out of hell and J.R. is now recognized as an accomplished artist and he has a home of his own. He also has a new daughter. I like to visit him every now and then. I was visiting him yesterday when he told me about his new pet. It was a writing spider that was building a web on the glass door leading to the deck. He crouched down to study the web and to see how it was developing.

"Isn't she beautiful?" he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“I’ve been feeding it and watching it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a pet writing spider. My wife is not impressed or excited about it.”

He thought for a moment and looked over at me. “You know, Dad, I never told you because I didn’t want you to worry but after you told me about writing spiders, I wasn’t all that much afraid of dying, I just wanted to see a spider write my name. I used to point at them all the time and I never died and they never once wrote my name in the web. But I still like to watch.”

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

 

Thanks for visiting johntheplantman

I paint pictures with words.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window

I like to “paint pictures” with plants and I enjoy the fact that there are four dimensions to these paintings—height, width, depth, and time. With time and plant growth the painting is constantly changing. It is very nice, too, to have a “picture frame”—in this case, the living room window.

The "before" picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

The “before” picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

My brother, Tom and his lovely wife, Sheila live in a hilltop home in Weaverville, N.C. just outside of Asheville. When I visited last May, Sheila asked me to think about how to plant the front yard and hill in a manner that would create a hillside garden which would look good from her comfy couch in the living room. The garden would also need to serve as a screen. Sheila was a bit picky, too. She asked for a collection of evergreens with something silver, and to have some white flowering plants incorporated into the planting. I collected plants all summer and Dekie and I loaded the truck and took them to the mountains on September 13. We timed the trip around the fact that my sweet mother would also be visiting.

When we got there we realized that there was yet another problem that we had to deal with. The original “landscapers” had installed what I often refer to as a “close the loan special” and had planted not one, but three cute little gold mop cypress plants at the front of the walkway. I guess they didn’t know or didn’t care that these plants grow into giant trees. It looked like this:

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

I told Tom and Sheila that they would have three choices, Take the trees out, put in a new walkway, or prune and maintain the trees in a nice tree form shape that would get the foliage up above the pedestrian traffic. They wisely chose pruning. Dekie was a wonderful helper. We determined that there were three main trunks in the planting and we began taking off the lower growth to expose them.

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

Since there had been three individual plants in the original planting we tried to maintain the center trunk from each of them. I stood back to check out the progress.

Checking the progress o the tree pruning.

Checking the progress of the tree pruning.

When we finished Mom came out to give her approval. I explained that at this point in the shaping of the plants, the important part was that the tops of the trees remain uncut. When they reach nine or ten feet high we will trim the tops and the foliage will begin to grow sideways and form a canopy.

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

It was time to start on the main part of the design. The first thing I do in such a situation is to use my handy paint gun and paint a line to show where the bed will go. After the line is painted I spray all of the weeds and grasses to kill them. Working with the orange line gives me a good reference for spraying and design.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

Sheila and I discussed the overall concept of the bank planting as well as the fact that phase two would take out a chunk of the planting by the walk way and replace it with grass.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

Then I began laying out the plants. I had chosen a palmatum Japanese maple, dwarf butterfly bushes (buzz series) with white flowers, white hydrangeas (Emily Moliere and white oak leaf), Black Prince cryptomeria, Foster hollies (for red Christmas berries), “plum yew” (cephalotaxus), and for a big splash of silver blue I added an Arizona cypress “Carolina Sapphire.” It’s going to take a few years but this is going to be one fine garden.

Since I am recovering from a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, Sheila made arrangements with someone to come in and install the plants later. My job was to lay them out and then it would be nap time. I got busy. Here is the layout from the side:

Plants set in place and ready for planting

Plants set in place and ready for planting

After the planting, the garden area will be mulched with shredded cypress mulch. The mulch will finish off the design and the view through the window will be delightful. Here’s how I left it:

checking the layout from the inside out.

checking the layout from the inside out.

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

You might also enjoy a previous article Landscaping from the Inside Out. Click here

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

This jade plant has been worked on for several years.  Time for more pruning

This jade plant has been worked on for several years. Time for more pruning

I am using a jade plant for pictures because the buds show up well.  The jade tree is also really good for an indoor bonsai.

To start with, look at the tip of a stem and notice the small growth bud.  This is called an “apical bud”.

The apical bud

The apical bud

At the side of the stem, just where the leaf comes out, you will find a very small growth bud.   This is called the “lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

Here’s how plant growth works.  The growth of the stem and buds is regulated by a group of hormones called “auxin compounds.”  The apical bud is dominant and it draws all of the auxins up past the lateral buds.  This enables the apical bud to develop and causes the lateral buds to remain semi dormant.

removing the apical bud

removing the apical bud

When the apical bud is removed by pruning, the lateral buds in turn become apical buds and start the elongation required for turning into a stem.  In a jade tree, the branching forms as two stalks as in the picture below.

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

Pruning helps the main trunks to develop and get bigger and stronger; this gives you a stronger and healthier plant.  If you remove the lower leaves and/or growth from the stems, the stems will turn into well defined trunks.  This is the principle behind bonsai, topiaries, and other shaped trees and shrubs.

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

I haven’t been there for a long, long time, but I once visited a monastery in Conyers, Georgia that specializes in bonsai.  The priest who was in charge said, “you should prune a tree so that a bird can fly through it.”  I have remembered that concept and I use it a lot as I shape such trees as Japanese maples (click here for an article on pruning Japanese maples).  Here is the picture of the jade tree after the pruning is finished.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

One of my next articles will be “how to start your very own bonsai.”  Keep in touch.

Some rather entertaining adventures of johntheplantman may be found in the book “Requiem for a Redneck” by John P. Schulz. Try the Kindle version

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

 

A Second Try for a Deer Proof Hillside Planting.

The driveway to the Hubbard house that I wrote about last week is over a half a mile long and it meanders up a rather steep hill through a minimally well-kept wooded area. The drive is delightful but there is one hill, on the left, right around a bend, that really needed to look nice (that’s a polite way of calling it ugly). I have a funny story about that area, also. Here’s a picture (If you look hard you may be able to make out eight or ten clumps of daylilies, the rest is weeds):

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

Patsy and I had talked about this area about fifteen years ago and we decided that it would look nice planted in daylilies. I found a good source for bare-root daylily divisions of many varieties and we planted 700 of them. Now, in my book, planting 700 daylilies is making quite a statement. We were happy because we all knew that we had done something special. I will never forget what happened.

A couple of days after planting the daylilies the phone rang. It was Patsy. “Where are my plants?” she asked. I hurried up to the house in a panic to find, to my dismay, that the deer had eaten the daylilies, roots and all. There was nothing left but pine straw and deer poop. It reminded me of a quote from The Hobbit, “It does not do to leave a sleeping dragon out of your calculations.”

We have talked about planting the hill again off and on over the years but mostly we have ignored it. After thinking about it for a long time we decided to use a trailing “Blue Pacific” juniper and accent it with a planting of ‘prostate plum yew.’ I found an article about the plum yew that you may enjoy, “beloved conifer” (click here)

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

Before planting the project I studied the possibilities of irrigation. I knew that once these plants were grown in they would be hardy enough to get by on their own and I always try to work in a cost effective manner, so I decided to use micro misters. The drip irrigation pipe is inexpensive in 500 foot rolls and it took almost four of them to get from the water source to the end of the area where the planting would be. We kept digging to a minimum by only making a short run across a grassy area (which we buried) and then ran the rest of the pipe down the hill on the edge of the woods, fastening it with sod staples

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

In case you are interested in the mister irrigation system, I wrote an article about it, Click Here for “installing a micro-mister system for your flower beds”. Here is a picture of a misting nozzle in operation. I really like these.

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

I went to see my favorite grower and bought a hundred juniper and fifty of the plum yew.

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

A week before the planting I sprayed all of the weeds with glyphosphate. On a job like this I like to use some precision for the layout so I used a tape measure, a three foot spacing stick, and my wonderful paint gun to mark the proper planting spots. We decided to use three inverted triangles of the plum yew with the juniper as a border. It should grow out beautifully.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

The plants were carefully installed on the hillside using Osmocote in the holes for a time-release fertilizer. We finished it off with 35 bales of pine straw and turned on the water. All was well. The plants were still there the next day.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Time: The Fourth Dimension in the Garden

Patsy Hubbard and I were looking around her “yard” the other day. She said, “It sure does look good this year.” I replied, “Yes, and just think, it only took thirty years.”

“I hope you are taking pictures.” She remarked and the more I thought about that remark, the more I thought that it would be nice to post some pictures.

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

As you can see from the picture above, the scope of the plantings mixed with the hilltop setting range from small details to large vistas. One of the best performing flowering accent plants has been the “Miss Huff” lantana. This reliable perennial has grown to the size of about five feet high and eight feet in diameter. It is totally deer-proof, also.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Here’s a detail of the lantana. If you plant it for yourself, be sure to leave plenty of room.

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Maintaining this landscape garden calls for a lot of pruning—some of it on a ladder. I would say that we do an extended pruning/shaping three or four times a year. I liked this silhouette:

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

The walkways are on three major levels and are tied in so that they may be traveled without the need of stairs. It is an ideal ride for a motorized “scooter.” There is always something pretty, interesting, and constantly changing to look at.

A shady garden path

A shady garden path

I like to grow a mandevilla vine up to the top of the pool cabana every year. This one was purchased at Lowe’s this spring and was about three feet tall. I have tried keeping these plants inside during the winter but I have found that it is easier and cheaper to just buy a new one each spring.

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

I built this rock fountain about thirty years ago and it’s still doing fine. I love the way it offers a microcosm of the distant mountainous vistas.

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The walkway to the main entrance of the home is bordered with begonias, angelonias, Knock Out roses, and crape myrtle among other plants and is fronted by a magnificent weeping cherry.

An entrance walkway with a view

An entrance walkway with a view

Even on the hottest days there is some relief to be found on the shady pathways.

A shady garden pathway

A shady garden pathway

This has been fun. I’ll try to find some more points of interest for next week.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

After four years I finally figured out how to add a comment box to this blog. Let’s see if it works

Trucking Buddies find Giant Insects

An accidental visit to the lovely Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville was most interesting. After viewing the bonsai show we walked through the  gardens. One of the most striking exhibits was of “Big Bugs”—sculpture by David Rogers. If you like bugs there is some fun information on the Cheekwood website (Click Here).

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

I enjoyed studying the praying mantis and then looked off in the distance to see what looked like space invaders from War of the Worlds.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

The garden path meandered through lovely flower plantings. I was delighted to see this sign which backed up my practice of telling people that an electric fence is, indeed, appropriate in the landscape garden.

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

The gardener had even set out a special sign to give a reason for the fence. I didn’t need one. I knew.

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

We walked on, enjoying the lovely day.  And then I came across the “space men” which turned out to be a granddaddy long legs spider.

giant spider

I think the sign said that this is not really a spider

I realized that I had been enjoying the signage and that perhaps I should share:

Is a daddy longlegs really a spider?

all about daddy longlegs

The artist, David Rogers, took good advantage of the reflective qualities of water as he placed his dragonfly in just the right spot.

9

giant dragonfly over a lake

giant dragonfly over a lake

And, of course, there was a sign for the dragonflies.

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I had seen sphinx-like statues in other gardens. This one commanded a nice view of the shade garden

Garden Sphinx

Garden Sphinx

And a sign that told me some things I hadn’t known:

about the garden sphinx

about the garden sphinx

One of my favorite pictures was this one of Sweetie in a bird cage. What they say is true, “The caged Sweetie didn’t sing.”

Yep, a caged Sweetie don't tweetie.

Yep, a caged Sweetie don’t tweetie.

For David Rogers’ website, CLICK HERE

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Trucking Buddies Stumble Upon a Bonsai Show

Dekie was studying the road atlas. She said, “Look, here’s a mention of what looks like a small botanical garden. Maybe it would be fun.” We had spent the night in Nashville on our way back to Georgia from the trip to Iowa—not because it was Nashville, but because it was a good place to stop. I’m always game for a garden and we went looking for it.

Heading South

Heading South

I’ll admit that we are a bit naïve and unaware at times. Neither of us knew that Cheekwood was a magnificent museum and garden on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. I plan to write at least a couple of articles on this adventure. It was quite an experience for a Georgia boy and his sweetie. After paying a parking fee and another admission fee, we looked around and found that members of the Nashville Bonsai Society (or whatever they call themselves) were setting up a very nice show just for us.

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

My wife is intrigued with bonsai and I basically shape plants for a living so we were happy to walk through and study the beautiful trees. I love the way an old pine trunk looks after years of training:

This is probably a Japanese Black Pine

This bonsai is probably a Japanese Black Pine

One of the more tedious techniques for shaping the plants is wrapping and bending wire to get the desired shapes. Copper wire is heated to gain stiffness and is then wrapped carefully around trunks and limbs.

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

The bonsai process is totally detail oriented. At first glance we see and appreciate the overall shape of the tree. On closer inspection, though, we notice deeper and deeper layers of detail such as in this carefully formed and aged tree trunk.

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

We were enjoying the tree below when an “old guy” started telling us about it (to me “old guy” is my age or older and should usually be listened to and venerated). He told us that the tree had been found and transplanted from a nearby mountaintop by one of their members who had served as a bonsai apprentice in Japan. I asked him what it was like to be a bonsai apprentice and he replied, “There is little or no pay, they work you like a slave and they don’t feed you.” I remember the part about getting fed.

A wind swept tree from the top of a  mountain

A wind swept tree from the top of a mountain

Dekie is working on a juniper cascade at home and she was interested in the overall shape and size of this specimen.

A bonsai in the classic "cascade" shape

A bonsai in the classic “cascade” shape

I have decided that the next plant I purchase for myself will be a Hinoki cypress—which is really not a cypress but a “cameacyperus” or false cypress. Here is a picture of a bonsai Hinoki. I also like them when they are allowed to get big.

Hinoki cypress bonsai

Hinoki cypress bonsai

I was rather taken with this three-piece arrangement. The artist will spend quite a bit of time adjusting all three of the components to just the right placement and orientation.

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

A good thing to know is that these arrangements are NOT house plants and that they are NOT static. The plants are usually grown outside or in a greenhouse and moved inside the home only for short-term display.

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

You may wish to play around with bonsai. I wrote an article a few years ago that is rather popular. Click here for ‘how to start a bonsai’

Another popular article, click here for “Pruning as an art form, the basics of pruning”

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

From Wikipedia on where the Cheek’s money came from:

”Christopher Cheek founded a wholesale grocery business in Nashville in the 1880s. His son, Leslie Cheek, joined him as a partner, and by 1915 was president of the family-owned company. Leslie’s wife, Mabel Wood, was a member of a prominent Clarksville, Tennessee, family. Meanwhile, Joel Cheek, Leslie’s cousin, had developed an acclaimed blend of coffee that was marketed through Nashville’s finest hotel, the Maxwell House Hotel. Cheek’s extended family, including Leslie and Mabel Cheek, were investors. In 1928, the Postum Cereals Company (now General Foods) purchasedMaxwell House‘s parent company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $40 million.[2]

“Trucking Buddies” Enjoy Garden Features on a Trip up the Rivers

A Georgia boy needs a good “trucking buddy” and I happen to be married to mine which makes things even better. Dekie and I decided to take a road trip to see Cousin Jane in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is beautiful and our gardening interests helped us to appreciate sights that varied from the smallest flower to the immense corn fields.

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Even though visiting Cousin Jane and her husband Terry in their new dome house was the overall immutable objective of the trip, we viewed our trip as an entity in and of itself. Good trucking buddies don’t hold interstate highways in a very high regard and prefer instead to get on the back roads and see what happens. That’s how you see the good stuff.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Before we left I didn’t really think of it as a “river trip” but we departed from Rome, Georgia, where the Oostanaula and the Etowah rivers join to form the Coosa river and we visited the Cumberland, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Des Moines rivers among others. The trip was both complicated and enhanced by the fact that the northern parts of the rivers were flooded.

Flooded Mississippi from Lover's Leap near Hannibal, Missouri--childhood home of Mark Twain

Flooded Mississippi from Lover’s Leap near Hannibal, Missouri–childhood home of Mark Twain

The flooding had been moving south. On the way north we enjoyed the riverside gardens in Peoria, Illinois. We watched immense barges full of granite gravel moving down the river. Later that week, on the way home, we saw that the barges had been tied up down around Hannibal because the river was so high they couldn’t go under some of the bridges. We had to turn around at one point because the scenic highway was impassable.

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

We spent a lovely evening in Davenport, Iowa where my wife enjoyed trying to find out just how far my old legs could walk. I kept up, though. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My legs ought to be a lot stronger. I sure did sleep well that night. Here’s a view of the flooded Mississippi from the bluff. I loved the daylilies.

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

We thought Des Moines was beautiful. I was amazed at the lack of traffic problems—knowing that it was the state capitol. We had a very nice tour of the city including their museum, the World Food Prize center (which I’ll write about next week), and the botanical garden that is currently being re-vamped. I was interested in the rather large water feature with islands that was in a middle stage of construction. I was impressed with the islands being built with pallets of stacked rock. I never would have thought of that one. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a large enough budget.

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden must have a greenhouse or conservatory—especially way up north where tender plants and Georgia boys just don’t belong in the winter. Des Moines has a beautiful geodesic dome greenhouse. I was disappointed to find that I had failed to get a picture from the outside but the following picture will give you an idea of what’s going on.

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

And speaking of domes, Jane and Terry Swanson have been working on this dome home for a number of years. It is most impressive—tornado, hail, and fire proof—and I think it could be heated with a Bic lighter. Actually, the heating is accomplished by warm water being circulated through pipes in the floor. I love the thought of a nice, warm floor to walk around barefoot on. The dome will receive a stucco-like coating this summer to cover up the skin which was used to form the concrete and steel structure. It’s quite a building. Jane is working with an entire yard full of native wildflowers and she knows the names of almost all of them.

The Swanson's new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

The Swanson’s new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

Not driving on the interstate took us to a surprise—the home of Superman—Metropolis, Illinois.

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

I took a wrong turn and we saw these beautiful ceramic lions guarding a door.

Ceramic lions guarding a door

Ceramic lions guarding a door

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain. I saw this in Hannibal and thought about how true the statement was

From Mark Twain's birth place, Hannibal Missouri

From Mark Twain’s birth place, Hannibal Missouri

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