The Rose Thwarts My Foul Mood

Please note the circled area on the rose below. I know it’s hard to see, but it’s a small, grayish area that looks like a bump. This picture was taken the day we transplanted the rose.


Now, please attend to the same area this evening, taken from a different angle.


The previously gray, rather unnoticeable bump has turned the red one would expect from an area just about to leaf. That’s right. This ancient motherfucker is all, “Well, this seems like a nice place to leaf out and see what happens.” Note: If this rose gets one good leaf, that will be on par with what it got last year.

Post-Move Rose Fretting

There was no root ball. Did I mention that? I did, I think. There was just this ancient tuberous tap root, probably 18 inches long that comes off the bottom of the rose, goes down about three inches and then turns 45 degrees and heads that way 15 inches. It now has a nick from where the Butcher hit it with the shovel. It had almost no roots coming off it, just the occasional little hairy clump, like you might see on a carrot. Except for up at the surface, where it had an umbrella of roots.

When we tried to take a “large root ball” as we’d been advised to do, there weren’t enough roots to clump a root ball together. We, for all practical purposes, ended up doing a bare root move. And, since I didn’t expect to be planting a rose bare-rooted, I had no idea if there were special things I should have considered.

Sunday, Monday, and today, I stared at it as hard as I could, to try to discern if it was going to live or die, but it’s just not clear. In the rain, it definitely got a good soaking. And it’ll get some nice sun today. So, I guess we’ll see.

I don’t know if the root situation is because it wasn’t getting enough light in the old spot and thus couldn’t leaf out and do the plant shit it needed to do in order to thrive, so it couldn’t sustain a healthy root system or if it didn’t have a healthy root systems so it couldn’t leaf out and get into the paltry sunlight that was there. Or if it was some mixture of both.

Anyway, I’m fretting. I hope it pulls through.

It May Not Be Clear Which of These Things I’m Going to Reconcile With

1. One Mayor, Two Wives.

2. Interesting video, good commentary on it.

3. Our rose moving is officially scheduled for tomorrow. I will plant astilbe in the rose’s old home. And both will flourish (hopefully) and I will feel that victory is mine. Part of the trouble with this winter is that it’s not been consistently cold, so I have some concerns about whether the rose is sufficiently dormant to move. But, on the other hand, if I don’t move it, it will continue to just languish in that darkish corner. Better to move it and at least try to give it a shot. My goal is to just get an enormous amount of the root system, so that, hopefully, it won’t be that big a deal to move. Maybe, except for the sun, it won’t even notice?


I’m feeling blah about gardening this year. Partially because I still feel uncertain about my shoulder–it’s fine, I’m just ultra-paranoid about fucking it up again. And partially I guess just because I’m feeling blah about it. So, I have small goals.

1. Replant the hollyhocks where the neighbors’ dogs tore them up last year in front of the shed.

2. Try again to get something going on in the sunny part of the big bed.

3. The usual morning glories around the bottle tree.

4. Cut down all the minor privet all over my beds.

5. Move the rose.

Every year after I lived here a year, I have wanted to move the rose that’s near the Butcher’s bedroom window. And every year, I let someone talk me out of it. I want to move it because it doesn’t get enough sunlight there, but either the Butcher or my dad will be all “But The Butcher/I could just cut back those shrubs” and I say, “Fine, if that’s really going to happen” and it never does. And then every year, the rose gets a bunch of leaves and one blossom. And the blossom is always right in the one tiny bit of sunlight that corner of the yard gets. Then the bagworms eat it (which is weird, because the bag worms are always closer to the tea roses, but not interested in them at all).

And it could be that the rose is just a million years old and is on the way out. But I don’t think I’m wrong. How confident am I? I’m planning on sticking some astilbe there instead. Because that spot no longer gets the afternoon sun you know that rose longs to bake in.

6. Then, obviously–plant astilbe where the rose used to be.

7. Dig up all the weeds in the old fountain and replant with something–haven’t decided what. Usually I grow strawberries there, but I can’t eat them and the Butcher doesn’t, so it just ends up going to the birds. But I need something that spreads like strawberries do to suffocate all the weeds that grow from the seeds the birds drop when they come to the fountain to bathe in the upper portion. I’d like something that flowers. Which I think just means a clematis. But I wouldn’t call that spot full sun. More like partial shade. So… I don’t know. I turn to you, internet gardeners.

8. Reset the walkway through the big bed.

9. Try some lily-of-the-valley again. Though I don’t know where. Though I guess I should also watch to see if the ones I planted last year decide to come up this year. I don’t know how I’m fucking up, but every year, I plant lily-of-the-valley and it never comes up.

And then just weed like it’s going out of style. Like it’s the most depressing task known to man. Which it is.

A Light in August

There’s this way, when the sky is just the right kind of overcast in the morning, that the flowers in the back yard have this almost translucent glow. Today, with the early hints of Isaac hanging above, I saw the morning glories in all their vibrant blue glory. Some of them are working their way up the black-eyed susans, which, you know, is not a gardening victory of any real sort, but I love how the blue and yellow look against each other. I love how the blue of the morning glory is actually, if you look closely, three blues. I think the shape of the morning glory is just about perfect–part trumpet, part fairy hat, part flamenco dress.

So, I stopped my car and ran out to get a picture of this.

And now I think, the actual interesting bit of information I could share with you is in the green dagger of the morning glory’s leaves. See how vibrant that is? When I’m getting a migraine, that is how all greens look. Like better than real life.

Black-Eyed Susans

I lost my mind a little bit this morning and became convinced the ceiling in the den is going to fall this afternoon. Even as I knew it was irrational, I still had to move the stuff I couldn’t bear to lose out of there. So, hey, in good news, I can move a whole drum set while crying hysterically.

But, in better news, I dropped off some copies of A City of Ghosts at the new bookstore in East Nashville, called East Side Story. It’s so cute and cozy. And I hope ambitious Tomato-festers will take a picture of my books on the shelf.  And now I am going to show you a few pictures of my garden, which is flowering away after threatening to die in July.

I will award extra points to whomever can explain why the rose picture turned out how it did. Did my iPhone just flake?  I don’t know. The Black-Eyed Susans make me very happy.

Watering to Save Things

Here’s what’s getting regular water: hydrangeas, roses, new nandina, the big flower bed, the new hazelnut tree, and the willow. I still think I’m going to lose one of the hydrangeas and possibly the willow.

It’s kind of depressing. The first few minutes the sprinkler was on the willow, it just knocked off a bunch of dead leaves.

If this is the future, I should have planted different things in my yard.

What Can Be Saved?

I’m not sure I have enough hose to reach all the things in my yard that so desperately need to be watered. The ground is like old concrete, firm under your feet, but prone to crumbling. The grass has all turned a yellowish green that suggests it still could spring back to life, but maybe not.

Every once in a while, you hear people talking about ways of combating hurricanes, like if they could just seed them with something or do something as they formed to dissipate them, and I think, well, then how will we get rain? It seems like a kind of trade-off we’d make, though. We want to spare this region this much damage and this much loss which takes place in really dramatic ways without a thought for what it could do to the neighboring region which will have that much damage and that much loss but slower, more gradually, so you can almost pretend you don’t notice it.

I think I’m going to focus on the trees and roses. Everything else can be redone in the spring. Assuming we have springs any more. I guess everything else could be replanted as cactus gardens if we’re determined to be a desert.

Traveller’s Rest, an Awesome Photo, A Photo I Should Be Embarrassed to Show You, and Other Flowers

I went to Traveller’s Rest this afternoon. Quite possible I was the only person wandering the grounds who wasn’t looking to get married there. They didn’t know who the Martha Overton who married Ben Allen’s uncle is either, but the cool thing I learned is that the wife of the Judge was an “herbalist.”


Lord It’s Nice Out

I wish I could play hooky today and just enjoy the beautiful weather. The hollyhocks are not just dead–someone has absconded with their carcasses. Every last one of them, just gone.

Honestly. When I first moved here, everything I planted turned out awesome.

But since the flood?

All that shit I planted two weeks ago? And have been watering diligently every day? No sign of it.

What the hell?

Have I lost my gardening mojo?

I’ve Become the Hazelnut Helicopter Parent

Goofus still doesn’t have leaves. I put him in the ground April 10th. That’s twenty days of non-leafening. So, I wrote the nursery. Yes, I did. Because why fret alone when you can fret with others.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Gallant wasn’t all “Look at me with my tiny adorable leaves.”

I didn’t walk the dog this morning, because I forgot to water shit last night, so I had to do it this morning. No signs of the lilies-of-the-valleys yet. I have never had any luck growing those and these I probably put in too late, but I keep watering. No signs of the lupines yet, though I’ve not had any luck with those, either, so I’m kind of not surprised.

The daisies do appear to be up–tiny two-leafed seedlings. This makes me happy. If nothing else grows in that bed, I know daisies do okay.

The poppies? I don’t know. Honestly, here’s the thing that irritates me about poppy seeds from the store. When a poppy wants to reproduce itself, it makes a seed pod full of like a hundred seeds. When a muffin wants to be a poppy seed muffin, it grabs hundreds of seeds. But when I buy poppy seeds to grow poppies, they give me maybe thirty teeny tiny seeds.

No, give me a pepper shaker full of seeds. They’re not all going to come up. They’re not all going to come up in the right place. So, why not just give me a good handful and give me the same fighting chance to have poppies that poppies and muffins get?

I think there may be a few poppies up, but of course the cat was napping there, so I’m sure he walked off with most of the poppy seed attached to his fur. My hope is to get two viable poppies above ground and thriving and hope that they spread themselves.

Gardening, Even Though I’m Not Gardening This Year

First, I promised strawberries to Lesley and they’re all gone. Just gone. Some fucking fucker animal is happy to apparently eat unripened berries. I need to remember to tell her that my promise has been made a lie by, I presume, squirrels.

Second, I think the grackles have nested in the purple martin house. When I was gardening, I heard quite a ruckus. The kids stay quiet until someone comes home with food and then it’s all “Oh, I’m starving half to death, feed me!”

Third, the mockingbirds continue to be either pissed or neighborly, I can’t really tell. They squawked at me when I came out.

Fourth, okay, so in the sunny end of the big bed, I put lupine, poppies, and some pink daisies of some sort. I would just like to say “fuck poppies.” Well, not poppies themselves. But seriously. You pay two bucks for seeds and there’s like twenty four tiny seeds in the envelope and they mostly stick to the envelope so you can’t really get them where you want. At this point, I’m just hoping to get a few up and maybe they’ll spread? Plus, motherfucking Lowe’s didn’t have red poppies.

Over on the dark side, I put in some lily-of-the-vallies, which were on-sale. I am literally the worst lily-of-the-valley grower, but my god, this would be a perfect spot for them.

There’s so much weeding to do, but I am slow at it this year.


Flowerdy Things


It Was the Best of Hazelnuts, It Was the Not-so-best of Hazelnuts

Behold my hazelnut trees! Look upon them and despair! Or cheer. Or just look upon them quietly so as to not startle them. Goofus is still not doing much of anything.

If you look closely, you can see that it still has buds and that those buds appear to be tipped with green. I’m taking that as a sign of life, but in all honesty, I’m not sure if those buds are actually bigger than they were last week or if I’m just wishful-thinking. No, I never did go get mulch. I’m not proud of that.

Gallant has leaves now, tiny delicate leaves. They look almost like insect wings. Gallant is all “I am practicing my baby photosynthesizing!” Keep going, Gallant! You will like photosynthesizing, once you get used to it!

Leaves feel like such a good sign. I will feel better about Goofus once he gets some.

It’s A Little Like a Fairytale, If You Overlook the Weeds

Levon Helm died today. Some people in my Twitter stream didn’t know who he was. You may not, either. It’s a long story and he died of cancer as an old man, so it’s both very sad and something of a relief, I’m sure, that he’s not suffering anymore and that there is no longer a worry that his suffering will increase, which is the pisser about cancer. It sucks so much. The thing you should know about him, if anything, is that he loved our music voraciously and promiscuously and unabashedly, and gave it back to us in a way that let us hear it as something worth loving again.

One Step Closer to Being a Hazelnut Farmer

I don’t know why this whole “growing hazelnuts” thing has me so on edge. Okay, I do know a little bit. I have been feeling like a total gardening failure this year. Everything needs to be desperately weeded. I don’t have the gumption to do it. I just can’t get a handle on what to do to make the sunny side of the big bed work, and until I do, it’s a weeding nightmare. And I can’t get poppies to grow, which makes me sad.

And every other day I go out and water the two sticks I planted in the ground last week, looking for any signs of life. I have a million reasons why I’m fucking this up. I soaked the roots, but only for an hour and not the two the directions recommended because I was rapidly losing daylight and wanted to plant them. Maybe I should be watering them once a day because they’re so young, but maybe every other day is too much because they supposedly like well-drained soil and I’ve stuck them in a wet spot (though other sources say they like wet spots, like, oh, you know the whole Pacific Northwest, where they’re grown commercially). Maybe I wasted a bunch of money because you can’t grow hazelnuts here anyway.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but if you find the white clover blossom and then look down the stick, you will see two buds. I have a little confidence this morning that it is going to leaf. The other one is a little further behind, but it, I think, seems to have a couple of smaller buds.

I will feel better once they have some leaves. I feel like leaves on a tree is a good sign everything is working how it should. You can monitor leaves, you know? Check for signs of health or unhappiness. This whole “water this stick” part is a little nerve-wracking.

Gardening with Mrs. Wigglebottom

I think gardening must be very confusing to dogs. Three times this morning I had to chase Mrs. Wigglebottom out of a bed where she was digging, while I was digging in a bed. Anyway, in spite of my best efforts to ignore the garden this year, I filled a couple of holes, and dug a small amount of weeds, and took some pictures, and thought about overdoing it and then decided against it.

Anyway, exciting things are afoot in the garden. The irises are getting started. I recommend everyone get one white iris, because they smell like jellybeans. The daisies are in full bloom. This wasn’t a good year for columbine, but the one that came up looks great. The peonies are at my favorite state, where the buds look like big marbles. I forgot to put the hoops on them, so you know once they bloom, they will be laying down. My blue false indigo came back, so I’m hoping to see some flowers on it this year. It grew last year, but didn’t bloom. The roses will put on a show any day now. My yellow knock-out rose is already beautiful. I’m hoping this summer it gets bigger than the lavender, because I’d like for it to fill up that whole corner, but I don’t think it will until it gets the message that it’s just like three inches from full sunlight. It just needs to be a hair taller. Well, if you had a three-inch hair.

I don’t know if you can tell in the picture, but the blossoms this early seem to have a pink tint. Honestly, no wonder people love these roses. They’re beautiful, hearty, and the blossoms are different depending on the weather. Last year, they were all yellow, all the time, though lighter or darker depending on how old they were. This year, it’s like the rose is showing off for the primrose. The front hydrangea are not dead, thank goodness. But man, they did not do well last year.

And that’s everything. Except I did have a thought that the trouble with composting is that you, by laws of physics, have to start a compost pile before you have your own compost. But it’s the smell of your own compost, the rich dark breaking apart of it in your hands that sells you on composting. The other trouble with composting is that it teaches you something we Americans really, really don’t want to know and that is that mostly there is death and rot and breaking down. And we, and everyone we love, and the plants and the animals, are a thin, beautiful, fragile, fleeting veneer of not-yet-dead that needs all that dead stuff to live.

There is no way to live and let live. It’s all done on death.

The garden is a scary place, sometimes. Makes you realize why all our oldest female gods were earth and death gods, when you’re out there, that’s for sure.


As lucky as I was to have Saraclark come tell me what most things growing in my yard are and to have W. come out and tell me where and why my wet spots are, I wish I knew a someone who could come out and explain the weather to me. We had a frost warning last night. My yard and my neighbor’s yard to the north were frost free when I walked the dog. His northern neighbor had a light frost in the sunny part of his yard, but there was no frost in the AT&T yard. But once we got up onto Lloyd, it was clear it had been frosty up there.

So, I wonder if it was, like, 33 in my yard at ground level, just warm enough to keep frost from forming (try saying that three times fast), but 32 up on Lloyd. But if hot air rises, shouldn’t Lloyd be a hair warmer than my low-lying yard? Unless the 32 degree temperatures literally only came as far south as Lloyd and no further.

See, that’s what I would love–someone to come over and look at the landscape and look at how weather behaves and explain to me my micro-climate.

Oh, I forgot to say, too, that the compost smelled so good. But it brings up a question I also need science to answer. I take dirt out of a hole. In this case, really thick, muddy, clay-like dirt. I break that dirt into smaller chunks and I mix it with my compost so that it is more amiable to young things that don’t have super roots. So, I must literally have twice as much dirt as I took out of the hole. Plus, it should take up more room because it had been compacted, but I have broken it into little airy bits. So, how can the hole take it all? Especially after I put a plant in there? How is it physically possible that the dirt that just came out of the hole does not refill that hole, but that it needs the dirt and the compost to do it?

After I get my micro-climatologist down here, I’m getting a yard physicist. Come explain this shit to me, yard physicist.

Easter Flowers

My Back is Old

I planned to spend the morning gardening. I wanted to cut down the peonies and clear the front left bed of trees. Mission accomplished. I even fell a little in love with the holly, because I realize that, in another year, they will crowd out the more problematic parts of that bed.

But, in the middle of all this gardening, I had to spend a good ten minutes sitting on the front steps waiting for my lower back to quit acting like an asshole.

What the fuck, back? You carry around two huge boobs all the time. I feel like I should have the core strength of a ninja.

Obviously, though, my back disagrees.

I have half a mind to pull up all my plants and plant bushes instead. Who needs flowers?