John goes to a book signing at The Grey Parrot.

Johntheplantman takes “Requiem for a Redneck” to Grey Parrot Gallery.

I call it “taking the redneck.”  This is my usual reference to attending book signings as an author.  I really enjoy the book signings because I get to go to some delightful places and meet interesting people.  We were looking forward to the event which included five authors for an evening titled “Meet the Author.”  I took my trusty HP camera to record parts of the event, but I got carried away with taking pictures of the magnificent collection offered by the Grey Parrot. We knew something was different when we saw the aluminum “Eiffel Tower” in front of the elegant building.

The Grey Parrot, 2300 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta

The Grey Parrot, 2300 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta

The collection of authors was diverse—in keeping with the other gallery collections—Sheila Moses with several books, Raymond Atkins (Front Porch Prophet, Sorrow Wood), Tony Grooms (Bombingham), Joe Gatins (We Were Walking on a Volcano), and yours truly, John P. Schulz (Requiem for a Redneck).

The book signing was fun and interesting. The authors and visitors were interesting and enjoyable.  And the collection of antiques: rare literature, unique artwork, maps, rare books, Audubon prints and the like was totally impressive.  I took a short tour of the gallery.  It would take  weeks to see it all, but I thought I would share some of what I saw.

I couldn't get the wrinkles out of the table cloth

I couldn’t get the wrinkles out of the table cloth

When I walked in the gallery, I noticed a unique table off to my right with a bowl of cherries on it.  I thought, “ooooh, Bing cherries, just for me.”  Before reaching for a cherry, though, I thought I’d straighten out the wrinkled tablecloth.  It was carved of wood!  I never saw anything like it.  Next, I reached for a cherry only to find that they, too, were carved wood.  I liked the table so well that I sat down in the nearby Biedermeier chair and I called Dekie to have our picture made together

John and Dekie at the Grey Parrot

John and Dekie at the Grey Parrot

We were greeted by the beautiful and delightful Sheila Moses who is the chief administrator of the gallery, working closely with Ken Holsey, the curator. The gallery is owned by Alex Branch, who has put this collection together with an intimidating knowledge of rarities and through extensive travels.  Ken complimented me by saying, “After I read your book, I realized that you would truly appreciate some of the furniture and artistic carvings.”  Ken took me on a tour, explaining that Biedermeier furniture was first made after the process for cutting large pieces of veneer was developed.  I later found a really good discussion of Biedermeier furniture HERE

Sheila Moses

Sheila Moses

And there were maps.  Lots and lots of maps.  I had never thought of the allure of old maps until I started looking at some of these.

A collection of old maps is rather interesting

A collection of old maps is rather interesting

Dekie enjoyed looking at a pre Civil War map of Georgia that showed the percentages of whites and slaves for each county.

A pre Civil War map of Georgia

A pre Civil War map of Georgia

I was impressed with the detail and color of one of the maps

The detail and color of a 17th century map

The detail and color of a 17th century map

And I got a close up of the inscription

I don't know what it says, but I sure do like it

I don’t know what it says, but I sure do like it

Next, I saw a very nice display for the fiftieth anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” with several autographed copies.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" 50th anniversary display

“To Kill a Mockingbird” 50th anniversary display

I held an autographed copy of “Gone With the Wind” in my hand for a moment before realizing that if I sneezed, I had just lost a year’s salary. I guess it would have been all right, though, because there were several copies.

Gone With The Wind, autographed first editions

Gone With The Wind, autographed first editions

There were shelves of old children’s books.  I remembered a number of them from my own childhood.

A display of old children's books

A display of old children’s books

Then I fell in love with the Audubon Pelican.  Ken explained to me that these prints were made before the color printing process was perfected and each one was hand colored.

Pelican, an early Audubon print

Pelican, an early Audubon print

One of the first Audubon Turkeys was rather nice.  I couldn’t get just the right lighting but this is my best effort:

Turkey, an early Audubon print

Turkey, an early Audubon print

Dekie enjoyed the smaller maps.  This map from the early 17th century shows the area which later became the southeastern United States.

Small, hand colored map from the early 17th century

Small, hand colored map from the early 17th century

I noticed something funny sitting on one of the shelves—a hand carved book worm working its way through a mahogany book.  This reminded me that there was a book signing event going on.

The bookworm reminded me that I needed to get down to business

The bookworm reminded me that I needed to get down to business

Moving back to the event, I was able to get a candid shot of the true southern humorist, Raymond Atkins who asked, “What would it take to get me a copy of that?” You may view Ray’s website HERE

Ray Atkins (Front Porch Prophet, Sorrow Wood)

Ray Atkins (Front Porch Prophet, Sorrow Wood)

That’s the tour.  Do you want to know the funny thing?  The redneck fit right in.

From the Grey Parrot website: (click here)

The Grey Parrot is named after owner Alex Branch’s pet and our mascot, Tiki. Tiki is an African Grey, a species of Parrot known for their intelligence and loquaciousness. We think this is fitting, because the Grey Parrot is dedicated to knowledge and learning, and we do enjoy talking about our rare or unique finds.

Tiki, the Grey Parrot

Tiki, the Grey Parrot

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If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

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?

 

How to extend the blooming season for crape myrtles

Summertime care for crape myrtles—and extending the bloom season

I was once asked, “can you extend the blooming season of the crape myrtle?”  This was several years ago, and I had never thought about such a thing.  So, I got to looking at a crape myrtle some time around the middle of July (the time of this writing) and I asked my favorite question…”I wonder what would happen if…..

crape myrtle flower, a summertime delight

crape myrtle flower, a summertime delight

I read a little about the history of the introduction of the crape myrtle to the American colonies during the time of the development of the British Empire when botanists were finding multitudes of new plants and spreading them all over the world.  The crape myrtle was found in the east Indies where the weather was rather hot.  Then they were introduced to England where they wouldn’t perform well due to the climate.  The plants were then sent to the early plantations around Charleston where they thrived.  Crape myrtles have added to the beauty of what is now the southeastern United States since the early 18th century.  I concluded that heat must be a factor in the performance of the plant.

I love the accents provided by the multi colored trunks of the crape myrtle in the winter time and I love the fact that one may use bonsai techniques to shape the plants.  Then, in the summer, I can’t wait to see the flourishes of colors that range from stark whites through a series of pastels to a dark red.  But then the blooms begin to fade as they develop seed pods.

Crape myrtle seed pods.  These may be removed to encourage new blooms

Crape myrtle seed pods. These may be removed to encourage new blooms

I studied these seed pods and wondered what would happen if I cut them off—dead heading them, so to speak, just as I would dead head a marigold or a rose.  I tried it.  I cut the stems just above the cluster of seed pods, right above a growth node which contained lateral buds.  I knew from bonsai experience that this would free up the lateral buds to grow from the stem.

cut the crape myrtle seed pods off just above the node.  Note the new growth at the base of the leaves

cut the crape myrtle seed pods off just above the node. Note the new growth at the base of the leaves

After only a few days, I noticed that the lateral buds were, indeed, turning into stems.  After a short few weeks in the hot Georgia weather, these new stems began to bloom again.

Since I was working on an estate that summer, trying to get it as nice as possible for an October wedding, I kept on trimming the seed pods as they developed.  They kept on coming out and blooming.  I learned that the blooms form on new growth, and the more new growth I got from proper pruning, the more blooms I got.  They just kept coming and coming.  In September, I still had a good bloom on the plants and wondered if I would be able to extend the bloom into October, but then a cool spell came along and the plants stopped forming new buds.

Even if the experiment was not completely successful, I did find out that with good pruning techniques and lots of heat, the bloom can, indeed be extended.  Try it.

Try this, put some of the crape myrtle seed pods in some potting soil, keep it moist, and you should get new plants!

Try this, put some of the crape myrtle seed pods in some potting soil, keep it moist, and you should get new plants!

Cut off the seed pods just above (if the tree is “weeping” you may see it as just below) a leaf node—the place where two leaves come out.  If you look really hard, you will see the growth bud for the new stems.  I got carried away and worked off of a tall ladder but you may not wish to do that.  Just be sure that the stems you cut get good light and are not shaded out by the upper growth of the tree.

It’s a fun game to play, at any rate.

Another good summertime project for crape myrtles is to check the tree for any unwanted “sucker” stems on the trunk.  These should be cut off as close to the trunk as possible.  If any new suckers appear at this cut, break them off—breaking them off seems to be more effective than cutting them.

cutting unwanted stems from a crape myrtle trunk

cutting unwanted stems from a crape myrtle trunk

Also, look at the bottom of the crape myrtle trunk to see if there is new growth coming up that will eventually mess up the shape of the tree.

unwanted stems at the base of the crape myrtle will eventually ruin the shape of the tree

unwanted stems at the base of the crape myrtle will eventually ruin the shape of the tree

The most effective way to get rid if these is by stomping them, breaking them off next to the ground and then removing them by hand.  I didn’t even have to put boots on for this one.

The "stomping technique" for removing unwanted growth at the base of a crape myrtle.

The “stomping technique” for removing unwanted growth at the base of a crape myrtle.

Remember, the blooms come on new growth, and the blooms seem to be triggered by heat.  It will work differently in different climates

But it is a good game to play.  As a disclaimer, I learned all of the information above through trial, error, and observation and not from books.  If you find a book that contradicts me, they are probably wrong.

Other johntheplantman posts that relate to this article:

Pruning as an art form, the basics of pruning

Zen and the art of crape myrtle pruning

Summertime care for Knockout Roses

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Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?

Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

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?

 

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A poem–“On to a Brilliant World”

Dragons can assume many forms.  G.K. Chesterton said: “Children do not have to be taught that dragons exist.  They already knew that.”

 On To A Brilliant World

The old man stood on the hill

In the time of my youth

In my time of formation

Invincibility

And confusion.

“Son” he said:

“That’s where you’re going.

See that peak over there?”

He pointed across the valley to the fog covered mountain

He pointed across the valley to the fog covered mountain

I looked.

The peak was covered by a cloud

But I knew it was there.

“Son” he said

“Son, you cain’t get there unless

You go through the valley

And sometimes,

When you get in the valley,

Sometimes,

When you get in the valley

You won’t be able to find your way out.

“It’s easy,” he said

“To get down in the valley

But sometimes getting up on the other side

Is quite another story.”

He gazed into the distance.

“There is the dragon” he said

“They say there is a dragon

A magic dragon

Somewhere in the valley.

The dragon will help you find the valley

But it will not help you to get out on

The other side.”

watch out for the dragon

watch out for the dragon

And I started for the peak

On the other side of the valley

And going down was easy

I slipped and slid and rolled

And ran and finally, I got to the bottom.

I looked up the mountain on the other side

And that was when I saw the dragon.

“Stay” spoke the magic dragon

“Stay here with me and

I will protect you.  Leave, and I will hurt you.”

And I stayed.

I forgot about the cloud covered peak

Which was my destination

The dragon made me comfortable.

I became more and more comfortable

In the valley.

And the dragon made me happy

Except,  every now and then

I thought about the old man who had showed me the peak

And when I thought about reaching the peak.

And one day, I started up the hill

On the other side of the valley

Heading for the destination I had

Almost forgotten.

And the dragon stood in my way

He struck me with his massive claws

Knocking me back into the valley

I stood and tried for the hill again and again

And he threw me back again and again.

It had to be magic.

He came after me and I was afraid

He came after me and I was afraid

 I grew older, and

Then, one day, I tried for the peak

And when the dragon came to knock me down

I boldly confronted him

I looked him in the eye

And I said:  “I am leaving.  Do not

Try to stop me again.

Dragons are not real

And there is no such thing as magic.”

And I turned and walked away

Digging my fingernails – my own claws

Into the hillside, struggling up the mountain

Toward the cloud covered peak

I grew older and

The dragon chased me

At times he stood in front of me

Blocking my way and I went around him.

But the further I made it up the mountain

The more he fell behind

Until he could no longer stop me

And the going got easier as I made my way

Out of the valley

Toward the cloudy peak

And toward the peak

That the old man had shown me

Was a large cloud

And the peak rose through it

I struggled unseeing through the cloud

And came through to the other side

On top of the cloud

And raised my head

And saw things I had never seen before.

It was a Brilliant World

The clouds cleared and I found........

The clouds cleared and I found……..

That was when I realized

That there was, indeed a dragon

And I had defeated him

And the magic……………..

The magic was in me.

And in the Brilliant World.

And

And it was now time for me

To be the old man.

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The title “Brilliant World” is from the blog created

And maintained by my nephew Isaac Schulz.

You may view it HERE

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?

Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

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?

Build an excellent sprinkler with parts from Home Depot irrigation section

Finding the best garden sprinkler–build your own with parts from the irrigation department, not the garden department–by David Brown

Today’s article was written for Johntheplantman by David Brown who lives somewhere sort of on the road to Subligna, Georgia.  Dave is a writer, handyman, farmer, and guitar playing storyteller among other things.  He finally figured that if he could rebuild a flintlock rifle, he should be able to find a sprinkler that worked.  So, he called for information.  Here is Dave’s story as I received it:

David Brown writes this week's article on making a good sprinkler

David Brown writes this week’s article on making a good sprinkler

Someone once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  If that is the case, then I’ll have to admit I have been close to the brink of madness when it comes to my attempts at getting water to my vegetable garden.

When we started putting in a vegetable garden out here in the boondocks about 20 years ago, it measured a modest 20 X 40 feet, and it was no big deal to stand out there on dry summer evenings and spray water on it with a garden hose and a nozzle.  We were young and had time on our hands.

As time has progressed, my agricultural aspirations have grown, and so have the dimensions of the garden. A few years ago, I bought a bang-up garden tiller at the Homey Deep-O. With the advent of the tiller, I decided that I would henceforth plant my rows far enough apart to allow me to run the tiller between the rows and thereby keep most of the cockleburs and crabgrass at bay without having to bend, stoop, and otherwise muddify myself.  We try to grow our vegetables organically, without the benefit of chemicals or poisons, so we are constantly in combat with opportunistic weeds, and the tiller has been a godsend in that effort.

David Brown's beautiful organic vegetable garden

David Brown’s beautiful organic vegetable garden

The garden now measures about 30 X 90 feet, and we generally plant beans, corn, okra, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers,  maybe some gourds or pumpkins, and a few culinary herbs.  With the bigger garden, my need to get water on it when the rains fail has become more problematic.

I admit that I have kind of slowly backed into this problem without giving it much in the way of critical thought.  Early on, I would just pull a hose out there, water the tomatoes and peppers directly, and then set up some kind of cheap sprinkler and try to get the row crops dampened enough to make it until the next scattered thundershower.  This sort of worked.

The problem with cheap sprinklers is that they are cheaply made.  I tried a simple rotary sprinkler with the spinning arms, but these eventually clog up and slow down and ultimately stop spinning and just sit there and dribble.  You go out an hour later and find that you’ve created a bog in the middle of your garden and your boots sink down to your ankles. Plus, even when they’re working right these little sprinklers don’t cover much area, so you have to wade out there into the mud and move them several times every time you want to water.

So, OK. I remember when I was a kid I used to go with my father out to the UGA Agronomy farm to visit his experimental plots and they would have these brass sprinkler heads with the little flicking arms that went ‘tick-tick-tick’ and then would reverse direction and go ‘ticka-ticka-ticka’ and then start back across going ‘tick-tick-tick.’ I went to the hardware store and bought one of these that was just attached to a spike that you could stick in the ground and attach a hose to it. When I found it was too short, I drove the spike into a piece of pipe and drove this into the ground.  These work OK until they don’t, and then you have to fiddle and mess with all these little springs and levers and adjusting screws, and meanwhile you’re getting sprayed in the face and all soaking wet and finally you just fling the thing as far as you can throw it.

I wanted to water the garden, not take a bath.  This just won't do

I wanted to water the garden, not take a bath. This just won’t do

Then I decided I’d use one of those sprinklers with the bar with a bunch of little holes in it and the adjustable gear drive that spews out a nice fountain of water and waves back and forth. These cover a large area and work great until they stop working, and they always stop working. I should know, I’ve bought three or four of them.

The sprinkler trash pile.  These sprinklers just don't do the job.

The sprinkler trash pile. These sprinklers just don’t do the job.

Mid-season this year I came face-to-face with my approaching madness and admitted I needed professional help. I ruled out soaker hoses because these would be in the way of the tiller.  I ruled out burying permanent irrigation lines because, hey, I’m lazy and I’m cheap.  Finally, I consulted my good friend John Schulz (johntheplantman) the Literate Landscape Artist.

John turned me on to a type of sprinkler head the pros use, called an adjustable pop-up sprinkler. They can be adjusted to cover any angle of attack from 0 to 360 degrees. They put out a consistent plume of water so your plants are watered evenly. They have a minimum of moving parts, and they are inexpensive.

From the Home Depot irrigation department I chose the  Rainbird 42SA (S.A. stands for Simple Adjustment, 42 stands for the range).

From the Home Depot irrigation department I chose the Rainbird 42SA (S.A. stands for Simple Adjustment, 42 stands for the range).

You can get these at Homer’s D-Po, but you (voice lowers to a whisper) don’t go to the Garden section. You go to the area labeled “Irrigation,” and immediately you realize you’ve made a significant upgrade in consciousness and class.  Eureka.

The pop-up sprinkler heads have pipe thread on the bottom, and you’ll have to educate yourself a little bit on the skill of welding PVC parts together, but it’s all pretty much there in front of you– in the Irrigation section. Cool, huh? Get a fitting that threads into the head and glue this to a piece of PVC pipe; make a 90 degree elbow at the bottom; and then attach one of the adapters that threads onto the pipe and allows a garden hose to attach to your thingy, and, voila’, you’re in business.  Just read the directions printed on the sprinkler head and a new heavenly light will shine down upon you. No more crappy inadequate sprinklers that cost too much and don’t work for long anyway.

pvc pipe, parts, and glue for putting the sprinkler together

pvc pipe, parts, and glue for putting the sprinkler together

Here are photos of some various parts, before and after assembly, and the sprinkler head I chose. I like the Rainbirdã 42SA (S.A. stands for Simple Adjustment).  Right now, I have one of these heads set on a movable tripod left over from an earlier sprinkler debacle, and I’ve found I can just about cover the whole garden with just this one head.  Ultimately, I plan to set out three heads on PVC pipe and strap them on metal fence posts that can be driven into the ground and moved when need be. Maybe one day I’ll bury a permanent water line out to the garden and attach all three in sequence, with separate cut-off valves, and a timer and……..well, maybe not.

This is the best sprinkler ever!!!

This is the best sprinkler ever!!!

David Brown

Subligna, Georgia

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Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?

Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

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?

 

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Which mulch do I use in the landscape garden?

Mulching the landscape garden—Which mulch to use for a low maintenance landscape?

One of the purposes of this blog is to answer lots of FAQ (frequently asked questions) that I run into on a daily basis.  Today, I will deal with the FAQ, “Which mulch should I use in my landscape garden?”  The main answer is, “It depends.”  Read on…..

fresh pine straw mulch in a natural area

pine straw mulch in a natural area

Mulching in the landscape garden—either around the plants or in bare spaces—is quite beneficial for the plants, as it helps with water retention and erosion control as well as providing a neat, well kept look.  The use of the proper mulch in just the right places can also be an art form, providing a subtle “picture frame” for plantings and natural areas.

The old folks around my home base in North Georgia have always used some kind of mulch for their flowers and gardens.  Some of them have recommended a mixture of newspaper, egg shells, and coffee grounds.  I agree that these are excellent mulching materials but they sort of miss it on the aesthetic level.  I thought about it and took a little ride with my trusty camera.  I started at Willow Creek Nursery in Rome, Ga.  The owner, Russ Head, carries a large variety of mulching materials

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

I guess the most popular mulching material in our area is pine straw.  The nursery keeps a trailer or two of pine straw bales on the lot at all times.  I have found that there is large variation in the quality of pine straw with different dealers.  I like the pine straw at Willow Creek because the bales are bigger, tighter, and cleaner (less sticks, leaves, and briars) than the bales at the box stores.  The price for the better bales is about the same, but I found that I can get 60 bales of box store pine straw in my truck and I can only get 50 of the better bales in there.  This means I get much more for my money.  So, if you’re looking for lots of straw, you may wish to shop around and include quality as well as price in your selection.

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Hardwood mulch seems to be getting to be a big business these days.  Independent nurseries such as Willow Creek are starting to stock bulk hardwood mulches as well as different kinds of gravel for ground covers.  This nursery sells the wood mulch by the cubic yard and will load your truck or deliver for an additional fee.  This particular product runs about $25.00 per cubic yard and one yard will cover about 160 to 175 square feet.  And, I agree, I don’t like the red mulch, either, but lots of people do. But, then, the mulch comes in brown, black, and natural.

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

There are lots of different types of wood products for mulching packaged in plastic bags.  These products include pine bark nuggets, cypress mulch, ground hardwood mulch, and more. According to material and manufacturer, these bags will range in price from $2.50 up for two cubic feet which will cover about 6 sq. feet of bed area.  I prefer to use the bags on small to medium jobs because it is much easier to transport and spread.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

Pea gravel is a popular item.  It may be bought in bags if you only need a little, but a visit to the nursery will save you lots and lots of money.  This gravel costs about $35.00 a cubic yard which is way cheaper than the bags.  If you just want a little bit, take a 5 gallon bucket to the nursery and fill it up.

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

Pea gravel doesn’t rot and go away like the organic mulches, but the most important thing about using pea gravel as a ground cover is that it needs to be contained.  Otherwise, it will get spread out all over the yard.  Below are pictures of a couple of applications of pea gravel.  Note the containment.

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area.  This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog.  It is more expensive to install, but never rots.  Note the containment

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area. This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog. It is more expensive to install, but never rots. Note the containment

Installation of a pea gravel walkway.  Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

Installation of a pea gravel walkway. Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

A good idea for covering natural areas is to plant a ground cover in your mulched areas so that you will eventually be free of having to add fresh mulch all the time.  One of my favorite ground covers for shady areas is vinca minor, or periwinkle.  (vinca minor has small leaves and is quite “tame”—DO NOT let anyone talk you into the larger leafed ‘vinca major’ as it will take over and become a pest.).  Here is a natural area that effectively uses vinca minor:

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

Here is a close up of the vinca minor.  These plants may be bought in a nursery or you may be fortunate enough to have a friend who will give you divisions.

Perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

Lenten Rose (helleboris orientalis)  is also one of my favorite mulch savers.  One of the developing landscape gardens that I am working on features a hillside with flowering cherry trees, pine straw mulch, and a planting of Lenten roses. After two or three years, numerous seedlings from the lenten rose pop up, and if left to grow this bank will be covered in lovely winter blooming flowers in two or three more years.  At that point, there will be no more need for mulching.  It’s a good investment.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

Wood chips may be used as a ground cover for many different applications.  A garden flagstone pathway bordered with wood chips is pleasing to look at or to walk on.  The flagstone and chips make for a good juxtaposition of textures.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Flagstone stepping stones also work well with pea gravel if installed properly

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

And, finally, since I took some of my pictures in Dot Fletcher’s lovely yard, I thought I might show you one of her window planters that she is rather proud of.  Can you see the little tube that takes the water to the planter from the drip irrigation system?  I can. It sure does make watering much easier.

Mrs. Fletcher's window planter

Mrs. Fletcher’s window planter

One last thing to think about.  If you have a tree surgeon friend who keeps really sharp blades on his chipper, you can get a deal on some really good wood chips.  These serve as a good mulch and as they decompose, the earthworms churn them into the dirt better than a tiller.

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Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

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?

Try “see inside the book” Harce’s picture is on the cover

 

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Coffee with Bubba–How to catch a horse

COFFEE WITH BUBBA:  “HOW TO CATCH A HORSE”

 Morning conversations with my redneck friend Bubba give me a lot of things to think about.  I like to share these stories and observations on occasion. Here is “How to catch a horse.”

horse and baby

Every time the boys got close, the horses moved just out of reach

Bubba comes to my “office” for coffee about three mornings a week. He usually shows up at 7:45.  I had told him that 6 until 8:30 in the morning is my quiet time that I use for writing and ciphering and such as that, but he just keeps on coming.  One day, I decided to write down some of the things he was telling me in order to make up for the interruption.  Bubba doesn’t seem to mind if I am typing while he talks.

Bubba takes a break to ponder a bit of philosophy.

Bubba takes a break to ponder a bit of philosophy.

Yesterday, Bubba walked in with a grin on his face and went straight to the coffee pot.  He poured himself a cup and sat down on the couch. He took a sip and looked at me with a smug sort of half smile.  That was how I always knew a new “redneck story” was coming.

“Hey, John.  You know Miss Peggy don’t you—down the other side of Leroy’s house?”

I told him that I had met her and she seemed to be nice.

“Waal,” he said, “you know them city folks that done bought that farm up on the other side of Miss Peggy’s? Their name is Marcino or something like that.  They’re yankees. Come from Ohio. Bought that farm sometime last summer.”

I told him that I had heard about them but had never really talked with them.

“Waal”, he said, “I went over to Miss Peggy’s the other night to look at why her riding lawnmower won’t run and when I got it fixed, she asted me to set on the porch and have a glass of sweet tea.  Man, this here is some really good coffee, John. Helen’s coffee ain’t near this good.”

“Anyway, we was settin there on the porch and we seen this here really pretty horse coming down the road and it had this baby colt following it.  They had done got loose from the yankee’s farm.  They was coming down the road with a sort of lost look.  You know how a lost horse looks?  Kinda like he don’t know where to go but he’s got to go somewheres?”

I nodded and stopped for a sip of coffee.  I had seen a horse in that situation, running a bit, stopping to look around, moving timidly in unfamiliar territory.  Actually, I’d been in that situation myself, now and then.

Bubba continued, “Waal, that horse done decided to go over to Mr. Johnson’s house acrost from Miss Peggy’s and he stopped to eat him some grass cause it was tall cause Mr. Johnson don’t never cut his grass.  And then we seen them two Marcino teenage boys coming running up the road with a rope.  They was after them horses.

“Next, them two boys started running up to the mama horse but when they got there the horse had moved to the other side of the yard and that baby followed.  The boys run after them again and the horses moved jest out of reach.  Every time they went after the momma horse, the horse moved. Every time the horse moved, the baby moved.  We could see them boys warn’t never going to ketch them horses.”

Bubba got up, poured himself another cup of coffee, and sat back down.

“Waal, we could tell them boys warn’t never going to ketch that thar horse and then Miss Peggy hollered out, ‘Hey, you boys come on over here and set on the porch a while.’ And them boys told Miss Peggy they had to ketch the horses or their mother would skin them alive.

“Waal, Miss Peggy, she told them boys to get their butts over to the front porch and get them some sweet tea and she’d larn them how to ketch a horse so they come on over to the porch and she got them some ice tea.  Them boys loved that tea ‘cause they was sweating and tarred from chasing that horse.  That’s when Miss Peggy went to work.

“Miss Peggy walks kind of slow and she went to the shed and got her a metal bucket and then she went to the other side of the shed and put some shelled corn in the bucket—about half full, dontcha know.

“Then she told them boys to be quite and they said they would and Miss Peggy walked slow like she does all the way across the street and set down on a stump in Mr. Johnson’s yard.  She just set there.  The horses watched her out the side of their heads.

“Then Miss Peggy, she started this here low whistle and that horse raised its head and looked straight at her.  Miss Peggy acted like she was eating that corn and going ‘mmmm  mmmm’ kinda low and that momma horse kinda walked slowly over to her and sniffed the bucket.  Then, next that there horse waited for Miss Peggy to move and she didn’t even blink an eye—jest sat there going ‘mmm  mmm mmm’  kinda low.  Then she petted the horse on its nose and scratched between its ears.

how to catch a horse

get some feed and hum a slow tune soft and low. She’ll come

“Then, that there horse, she started eating that corn and next, the she stepped back and let the baby horse eat some. After a bit, Miss Peggy just kind of stood up and walked over to her house and that there horse follered her right up to the porch steps. The pretty baby colt came on right behind.  She taken the halter and the rope from them Marcino boys and she put it on the horse.

“You shoulda seen the looks on them boys’ faces.

“Miss Peggy handed the least one of them boys the rope and then she pointed her finger and said, ‘I hope this will teach you to close the gate.’” Them boys said they would be more careful.

“Then Miss Peggy said, ‘Now, I want you boys to know that you ain’t never going to ketch a horse by chasin’ it.  A horse is a curious creature and you got to make it want to come.

“’I know you boys cain’t think like a girl, but if you could, you would know that you kin catch anything you want anytime you want—All you got to do is hum a tune low and easy, and use the proper bait.’”

It was time for Bubba to open his shop so he rinsed out his cup and headed for the door.

“You be careful, now, John.  See you around.”

More “Coffee with Bubba stories:

Bubba the squirrel trainer

Bubba’s Christmas Letter

This is a work of fiction.  Copyright 2010 by John P. Schulz

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?

Try “see inside the book” Harce’s picture is on the cover

 

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Pondering landscape design in the urban southeast

Thoughts on landscape design in the urban southeast.

I guess little kids can remember different sorts of things. I can remember a couple of the houses that I lived in during the early 1950s in a small town in the piedmont area of North Carolina.  These houses didn’t have closed foundations, but were built on top of concrete block columns.  I guess I remember this because it made it easy to go play under the house on hot summer days.  I have a vision of myself sitting under the house, quietly playing with my toy soldiers that I had ordered from the back page of a comic book.

This is where I am going--read on

This is where I am going–read on

Knowing what I do now, I assume that these houses built on blocks were either pre-war homes or some that were thrown up quickly to take care of the needs of home-coming soldiers or those moving to town from the country.  Urban living was changing fast in those days.  I can also remember my father taking me to visit in a new neighborhood where the outside walls of the house went all the way to the ground. I guess I remember because  I felt sorry for those poor people—where would they play on a hot summer day?

And here’s how this relates to landscaping.  Most southern houses built during the first half of the twentieth century were perched up on a set of block or rock columns.  This left an ugly space at the bottom of the outside walls and people started planting shrubbery in front of the space to cover it.  And this is where the term “foundation planting” came from.

To this day, even though the outside walls now go all the way to the ground and there is no ugly space, we refer to our landscape gardens as “foundation planting.”  When I first started working in the landscaping business during a housing boom30 years ago, contractors would call and say, “Hey, John, I need a ‘close the loan special’.  That’s exactly what they wanted.  I found that a “close the loan special” meant to smooth down the front yard, plant 5 plants on one side of the front door, 7 plants on the other side of the front door, throw out grass seed and cover it with wheat straw.  I was very happy when my business got to the point where I didn’t have to do this any more.

A shaded area between the road and the home promises something special and adds depth to a small front yard.

A shaded area between the road and the home promises something special and adds depth to a small front yard.

Now, we have come to realize that since we don’t actually need foundation planting in the original sense of the phrase, we can extend our landscape plantings and gardens out into the yard and strive to create an effect that the house grew in the middle of a garden.  It is all relative to the view.  One of the rules of residential landscaping is to guide the visitor to the front door.  What better way is there to accomplish this than to build a garden around the entrance walkway?

Bold design creates an inviting and interesting entrance

Bold design creates an inviting and interesting entrance

An entrance through a garden is designed to be peaceful, to make the visitor comfortable, and to give a promise of being welcome.

Enter through the garden path

Enter through the garden path

It is also interesting to build a well designed and colorful garden in a spot which would ordinarily be relegated to grass.  The de Wits of Kingsport, Tennessee have spent several years tending and manicuring this front garden which contains dianthus, a perfectly shaped eastern red bud, and trailing roses among other delights.

An interesting front yard with no grass to mow.

An interesting front yard with no grass to mow.

The concept in this article swings around the dimensional viewing of a landscape garden.  A garden is an art form that may be viewed from the inside out as well as from the outside in.  I once thought there was a fourth dimension in landscape gardens.  I thought that dimension was time.  But, now, I wonder if there are not more sub dimensions within the fourth dimension.  As John Denver said, “It keeps changing fast, and it don’t last too long.”

 Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

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?

or print:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

Here's where you'll find Johntheplantman at his best

Here’s where you’ll find Johntheplantman at his best

Summertime care for Knockout roses

Knockout Roses and summertime maintenance.

Over the last few years nothing has affected the color of our landscape like the Knockout rose.  Originally this rose was praised as “maintenance free” (and it is, to a point) but we have learned that there are certain tricks to getting the most out of the plant.  Read on—

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

After over 30 years as a landscaper and plant grower, I have learned that there is no such thing as “no maintenance”, only “low maintenance.” The Knockout rose is definitely in the low maintenance category.  After the first beautiful flush of bloom, the plant begins to fade.  This is because the first blooms have been pollinated and the plant is busy with its inherited job of making seeds.  This shows up as dead blooms and an overall dropping of the early spring petals.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

Here’s what is going on.  The flowers have been pollinated and are in the process of making seed pods.  There is a chemical produced in the plant that slows down the next blooms so that the seed pods can mature.  In order to fool the plant that it needs to make more flowers, the seed pods must be removed.  This is called “deadheading.” All serious flower growers know about deadheading and I talked to Judy about her Knockout roses the other day about it.  Judy said that cutting off each spent bloom took a lot of time and trouble.  It started me thinking about the best way to accomplish the job.

My feeling on the deadheading job on the roses (and the way I do it on the job) is to combine the job of deadheading and cosmetic pruning into one operation.  I start by looking down into the plant to isolate the stems which have mostly spent blooms.

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

In performing my task, I am trying to promote new growth and more flowers.  I want to be careful to leave any new growth which looks like this:

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this--with lots of flowers.

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this–with lots of flowers.

If I reach inside the plant and cut the stem (directly above a new leaf node) I can not only get the plant deadheaded in less time but also cause the stem to branch out and make even more flowers than before.  You may read about some of the principles of pruning in this article onhow to prune a jade plant.”  The principle is the same. I carefully cut a stem in a manner that performs two tasks.  Here is what I cut.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

After this cutting, the old stem will branch out and form new growth which will develop more flowers and will, again, look like this:

New growth on the Knockout rose

New growth on the Knockout rose

The process is really rather simple and you probably won’t mess up.  You can cut the stem short and get more branching at the top of the plant or you may wish to take out a larger cutting which will let more light inside the plant and increase the later flowering even more. You may wish to try deadheading on all of your flowers, especially marigolds and petunias. It does make a difference in the number of flowers you will get.

An application of a high phosphorous plant food or fertilizer will also help the plant to flourish and produce even more flowers.  Maybe use something with an analysis of 15-30-15 or a similar ratio.  Liquid feeds are fine and it doesn’t hurt to pour it all over the leaves as well as around the roots.  The upside for liquid is that it works faster.  The downside is that it doesn’t last as long.

Time release fertilizers such as Shake ‘n Feed or Osmocote will work well and last the entire season.  You need to scratch these into the soil or pour them into a small trench around the plant for full effect.

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

You may wish to read my article on fertilizer here.

Another article on pruning Knockout roses

And an article on pruning crape myrtles is here.

Every now and then you may get fungus on the roses, and sometimes aphids will set in.  I suggest a combination fungicide/insecticide which you can purchase at any good nursery.

Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation on your property with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

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?

Or the traditional print edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden update

Garden update–Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden
Mother’s Day–It was time to check on the garden at the Maple Street Boys and Girls Club here in lovely Rome, Georgia.  The garden is a project of the Three Rivers Garden Club and is sponsored by the Rome Federated Garden guild. I have been involved in the the project from the design stage a year ago. So far, this garden has produced food for hundreds of people and has served as a learning experience for children and adults alike.
New gazebo and entrance arbors

New gazebo and entrance arbors

The garden design from last year called for a gazebo and for entrance arches. They are almost finished.  The kids are going to love this gazebo.  They already love the garden.

start with a picture of a gazebo

start with a picture of a gazebo

Mr. Barry Webb , who is the construction instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College was able to take a picture (above) and turn it into a reality.    The crew had started around the first of April and have almost finished the job.

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the truck door announced the arrival of the building crew.

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

The floor for the gazebo

William James and I took a walk around the garden.  He is kind of new to gardening and wanted to know exactly what needs to be done next.  I wanted to know all about what has happened with the kids, the staff, and the produce.

Mr. James was really proud of the strawberries.  There is a bumper crop coming on and a few days ago the boys and girls were able to have an afternoon snack with strawberries from the garden and some bananas that had been donated from a local organization.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries.  Love that compost!

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries. Love that compost!

I liked this, also–earlier this spring, we got the kids in the garden and cleaned out the beds.  To make room for lettuce and spinach, the kids harvested over a hundred pounds of turnips and turnip greens which were donated to the local community kitchen.  Is that cool or what?  One organization growing produce for another.  At any rate, the produce goes where it is needed.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

Mr. James told me that the children had had a number of afternoon salads from the garden with their own lettuce, onions, radishes, and spinach leaves.  He told me that the staff started sending “salad makings” home with the parents.

Now we are getting ready to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and lots of other veggies for the summer season.  Below is a picture of the almost finished gazebo with William James and Diane Harbin.  Mrs. Harbin is a member of Three Rivers Garden Club and has directed the garden project.  She knows how to get the job done.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Every time I visit the garden, watch, and interact with the children, I come away with a happy feeling.  It is an amazing project.  It helps people to laugh, work, learn, eat, and above all share.

This garden provided food for over 200 members of the Boys and Girls Club last summer and fall.  It provided learning for children and adults alike.  It is an amazing project.  I am proud to be a part in it.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

A strawberry plant blooms in the sun.

To visit the original article on the garden, click on the link below:

Raised beds for a vegetable garden

A beautiful backyard garden path

A walk through a garden pathway

I showed up to “tweak” the garden in preparation for a party.  I hadn’t been there for a while and when I walked up to the trellised gateway, I just stopped and said “wow.”

For a number of years I have helped Susan in developing the garden picture that she keeps in her head.  The garden is reaching maturity and Susan’s overall concept is beginning to really show up.  The gate is open and inviting.  How could you not walk through it?

An invitation to enter the garden

An invitation to enter the garden

Susan is anxiously waiting for the day when the magnolias, hemlocks, and white pines completely hide the black fence in the back and the houses to the sides.  The screen is almost there.  If you look really hard, you can get a glimpse of a neighboring house, but not much of one.

Seclusion created over a number of years

Seclusion created over a number of years

There are three pathway entrances to the garden.  The one pictured below leads from a grassy area past a koi pond and waterfall up into the garden itself.  The pathway is made with the use of random pieces of flagstone and a few custom poured stepping stones. A mulch of natural wood chips adds the perfect complement of texture and color.

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

When we established the pathway a few years ago, we used mostly flagstones, but we added hand made stepping stones using whisky barrel rings for a mold.  Leaves from surrounding plants were incorporated into the design, and the stones were colored with an acid stain.  I still remember seeing Susan bending over to look at a stepping stone and then straightening up to look around at the nearby plants. Grinning.

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

The pathway meanders to a secluded flagstone sitting area.  I like the way the hostas guide the visitor around the curve.

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

Walking toward the rear of the garden from the sitting area is like heading out into “the woods.”  I found azaleas on the left of me and a very large bed of Lenten roses to the right.  A snowball viburnum was showing off its spring glory.

From the sitting area into the garden

From the sitting area into the garden

At a curve in the walk I found this cute little bunny that is probably not going to ever get around to eating that hosta.

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

An entrance from the other side of the yard gives a vista of freshly planted begonias, coleus, white azaleas fading into a row of red Encore azaleas, and a beautiful Japanese maple.  As the azaleas fade, a large collection of hydrangeas will bloom in their place.  That’s when the Encore azaleas will really show off, also.

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

A view from the patio shows a short retaining wall built with large rocks and plantings to the front with a background of white azaleas.

From detail to background.  Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

From detail to background. Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

A good eye and an attention to detail give us the plantings on and in the rock borders.  Here we have variegated Solomon seal, ferns, and fig vine.  I really liked the basket accent.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

The garden entrance from the patio is framed by a Buddha and a dragon fly giving an instant feeling of inner peace. I thought about the juxtaposition of the freedom of the dragon fly in flight and the quiet meditation of the Buddha.

A pensive freedom

Standing over the koi pond and next to a Japanese maple is the statue “la Breeza.” With the wind at her back she welcomes the sun to the garden.

"La Breeza" welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

“La Breeza” welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  I’ll be back when the hydrangeas are in bloom.

Johntheplantman.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be instantly deleted.

related articles:

flagstone walkway and garden entrance part one

 

Flagstone walkway and garden entrance part two

Lenten roses, planting grass 

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the plant man by visiting the sites below:

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

or the print version:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

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