Monthly Archives: February 2010

Plotting along, but winter still rules

fresh snow 02-2010 measuring tapes The tools?  Paper, pencil, measuring tapes, and because the ground’s frozen state will not allow me to drive stakes in as markers, a willing husband.  He held one end of the measuring tape while I held the other and carefully recorded each measurement for later use.

The task?  Measure a house outline with notations of all windows, doors, porches, decks, downspouts, faucets, electric outlets and boxes.  Then choose specific plot points such as a boundary marker, a fence post, or any other spot usable as a measuring reference, and take multiple measurements of the distance between point A-F, A-H, B-F, B-H, and on and on until we gathered enough measurements from each plot point to each prominent aspect of the house outline.

Why do this in the dead of winter with 8 inches of snow on the ground?  Well, when class work calls, anxious students respond, and this anxious student was not about to let old man winter and a few inches of snow keep her from moving forward with her next landscape design lesson.

If I had waited for the friendlier weather of spring, the CAD lessons I struggled through would no longer be fresh in my mind.  So we bundled up in coats and gloves, pulled on our boots, grabbed our tools, and took as many measurements as possible.  Since then I’ve been putting pen to paper – or more accurately measurements to keyboard and mouse.  You can see from the photo that my computer now stores a house drawing.

survey lesson There was a time in my life – way back when – that I would have relished creating on paper, with ruler and square and pencils and many erasers, what my computer screen shows now.  But progress dictates we move forward, and I’m now happy to be able to draw on screen with the knowledge that a quick hit of the save icon allows me to freeze my work in time for a time when I have more time to plot through this lesson.

So I ask that you please forgive my intermittent posts of late.

I’ve had to shove blog ideas aside – even though a post about scabiosa keeps trying to poke its way out of its draft status to a full-blown published state.

Though seed packets stare out at me from their storage pouch, they too must wait.

Outside of a brief foray to the flower show all my garden and flower thoughts have been buried under line segments and snap points.

Now, I begin plotting the house on the site.  During stage two of this lesson, center and radius circles and marker points will dance in my head until the CAD version of the house is depicted on the computer as accurately as it is on the ground.

In a perfect world, which for this lesson is sans snow cover, all aspects of the landscape are measured at once.  First the house.  Second, fences, walls, and boundaries.  Third, trees, shrubs, walkways, gardens, etc.  Then with all measurements at hand, you sit at the computer and plot away.

I do not live in that perfect world, but in my perfect world, New England, where snow and cold reign from December through April.  I have to grab measurements as snow permits.  I hope some of the current snow will be gone by the time I get the house plotting stage done.  But I won’t hold my breath or bet on this – the weather forecast calls for slush … then rain … then snow. 

CT Flower and Garden Show

Hey all Connecticut gardeners, this weekend is your chance to get a taste of spring at the 29th Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show.  It’s held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford through Sunday February 21.  I spent a day there, accompanied by my very accommodating husband, and my wanders through the various displays gave me just the mood lift winter weary gardeners need about now.

As in prior years, visitors are greeted by the friendly faces and knowledgeable staff of Ballek’s Garden Center, which  just happens to be one of my favorite local nurseries.  If for no other reason, it’s worth stopping by to smell the wonderful scents wafting from Ballek’s plants.

As always there are orchids, pansies, forced bulbs, herbs, and lots of other plants to purchase.  Many vendors sell tools and offer a hands-on opportunity to figure out just what fits.  Plus there are plenty of power tools, tractors, and sheds to view, as well as jewelry, photographs, soaps, tasty sauces, and lots of other gifty, flowery, gardeny stuff for those willing to part with some green.  And, if you tire of the vendors, check out the really cool floral designs .

Be sure to stop at the Bagz-It booth.  I purchased my first Bagz-It two years ago and love it.  So, I bought another, smaller version this year which I will review in a later post.  No connections to the company, the owner, or anyone else involved in making or marketing these products.  I simply think they are great tools worth noting.

espaliered maple-2 2-1010 One of my favorite sites this year was an espaliered maple … I may have to try this.

Sorry about the photo but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, I’m not completely sure which display included this tree.

So if you go, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

Foliage fashionistas

Coleus, dressed in orangey reds, or deep maroons and bright greens, or solid limey green; any way you look at this group of plants you must admit they are foliage fashionistas  There are varieties for sun, shade, and anything in between.  Some are tall, others short, and the amazing range of colors from the ever increasing varieties allows just about anyone to use them in gardens and containers – I do both.  Coleus are easy to start from cuttings or seed – I do both.  Plus, they make good houseplants for all the northern gardeners – like me – who crave color during winter months.  Coleus adorn my kitchen windowsill (bright light but no direct sun) most of the year.  In late summer, I load fresh cuttings into vases of water and wait for them to root.  From rooted cuttings they become small potted plants.  Some years they adorn window sills all around the house, other years I manage to save just a few – usually depending on how I’m able to control aphids – but most often you will find my sills holding a coleus collection.

And because I love coleus so much, photos of some I’ve grown in the past are my addition to this month’s Foliage Follow-Up, the blog meme started by Pam at Digging.

coleus and petit licorice      coleus and sweet potato vine      coleus limelight

Above find three varieties: Sunset (I think) from the Wizard series; one of the Rainbow mix; and Limelight getting ready to bloom.  There are many, many more.  The nearly black Palisandra – actually the leaves look like dark, dark maroon velvet; the lemon-lime variegation of Pineapple, another Wizard coleus; the ruffle-edged, dark pink to maroon colored leaves of Black Dragon; there’s even a coleus  with leaf color variegations similar to a Rattlesnake – and so named.

Coleus have become very popular plants of late, so seeds are more available now – I get mine from Pinetree Garden Seeds.   You’ll find many more color and variegation choices sold as plants either via mail order or at just about any garden center.  Either way, they can be stunning additions to dark corners, holes in a planting bed, or as container highlights.  Just keep them out of reach of marauding deer, give them adequate water (the leaves droop dramatically when too dry or too wet), and pinch them back to keep plants bushy.  Oh, and northern gardeners, make sure to keep them protected from any frost.  Coleus do not look forward to visits from Jack.

These beauties never become boring.  The same plant will take on different color and variegations based on the amount of light it receives – check out some other coleus varieties here.  If you haven’t tried coleus yet, then don’t pass up the chance to do so this year.  They make adding color and drama a breeze.

Now that you’ve seen my Foliage Follow-Up, head over to Digging to get other foliage ideas for your garden or window sills.