Saturday, March 29, 2014

Japanese Maples in Spring

Murasaki Kiyohime - a great dwarf JM for a shady spot.

Katsura - has almost neon green spring colors.

O Isami - Acer Japonicum

Red Dragon - a slow growing lace leaf maple.  

Close up of the leaves on an Otto's Dissectum JM

Koto No Ito - a beautiful, delicate-looking tree.

Ryusen - a unique tree that can be trained to act like a ground cover.

Orangeola - I had one of these at my old house but had to leave it behind.
I couldn't resist replacing it when I saw this one at the nursery the other day.  

Viridis - a weeping lace leaf maple that should eventually be wider than it is tall. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Captain Ahab's Focus

I suppose I should admit it to the world something that my wife has known for years: I’m not the best multi-tasker.  I don’t necessarily think of this as a negative though.  In the “glass half full” spirit of things, I see my propensity for avoiding multi-tasking as a direct cause of my single-minded determination.  I have an Ahab-like ability to obsess on one thing at time. 

Once my obsession has taken root, I find it difficult to move onto other things.  For the last two months, my obsession has centered on the construction of a new room off the back of our garage that we’re temporarily referring to as a “man cave”. 

A place for tables without chairs, cabinets filled with paint cans, and rusty file cabinets. 
Before it was the man cave, this room was a thrown-together catch all.  My guess is that former occupants of this house used it as a shop and a place for their kids to shoot their air soft guns.  The structure, such as it was, stood on top of a slightly raised concrete pad that takes up the majority of what was once a good sized patio.  Initially, I thought we could just tear down some of the old construction and put up new dry wall and replace some lights and we’d call it good.  But when we discovered that the entire frame was nothing more than one of those iron patio awnings we knew it was best to tear it all down and start from scratch. 

After we moved in I started filling this space with weed whackers, HD buckets, and gardening shoes.
Although this means the entire project would be much more expensive, it turned out to be a real blessing for me.  I was able to design the new room and add in all the perks that would make it truly usable as an extra space for our family.  Because this room juts out onto the patio, and the back yard as a result, I had to consider the exterior of this room as a backdrop for the garden at large.  To that end, when we designed the room I made sure that there was enough space between the windows that I could put my large planter box/trellis between the windows without blocking any of the light.  

This now fits perfectly between the room's two windows.

I also made sure we installed several exterior outlets making it easier to do things like power Christmas lights, corded power tools, low voltage lighting, irrigation timers, and anything else that comes with an electrical cord.  I also asked for an outlet to be installed just under the eaves because I thought that would be a perfect way for me to realize my Pinterest-inspired day dreams of being able to string cafĂ© lights up into the mulberry tree that presides over our patio. 

Something like this is what I'm aiming for. 

After two months of construction, the keys have finally been turned over to me and the decorating will begin in earnest this weekend.  Once I have gotten the interior situated to my liking, I am going to turn my obsession to getting the patio set up the way I like it.  

A fresh start always comes with a renewed feeling of hope.
The door on the left now hides the utility meter and provides a little closet storage.
If I knew how to Photoshop, I'd erase those chairs from the picture.  Obviously I don't know how to Photoshop.

At my last residence, I was very much a container gardener.  I probably had 20 different containers on my back patio alone.  I enjoy container gardening immensely.  I used to think that I was a container gardener because I lacked the space to do more traditional gardening.  But now I understand that I enjoyed the restriction of it, the "movability" of plants in pots, the ability to easily change the scenery as my mood dictates, and the experimentation involved.

Nearly time to pull my pots and misc. containers out of storage!
I am definitely looking forward to letting myself obsess about filling up my patio with plants, pots, and power cords.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring: In Seven Pictures

Sacramento's spring has begun.  There are still plenty of leafless trees and our record breaking dry winter (part of California's worst drought in 500 years) has left many homes, mine included, with dry, brown lawns.  But it's not all gross to look at.  Here's a peak at what has been blooming in my yard the last few days.

A plum tree of an unknown variety.  But I think it might be a Blue Damson or a "French Improved"
No matter the type, the blooms this year were the first to proclaim the end of winter. 

One morning last week I woke up and saw a Camellia bloom.  A few hours later there were a half dozen opening up.
The Japanese maple cultivar "Katsura" is almost always the first to leaf out in the spring.
It starts out yellow with tinges of red and then turns lime green for a while before darkening a few shades in summer.

This hydrangea managed to hold onto a few leaves from last season and is now putting on new growth.

This is one of my favorite Japanese maples.  The cultivar name is Murasaki Kiyohme.
It's a smaller JM and suitable for growing in a container in a shady spot.
All JMs prefer afternoon shade in hot climates but this one is especially sensitive to hot sun
and the leaves will shrivel up in the wrong spot.
If you look closely, you can see the buds are just beginning to swell.

The birds have returned and their voracious appetites made quick work of what I put out for them.

This pictures sums up Sacramento's Spring pretty well.  There are plenty of weeds to attend to but since they are the greenest part of the lawn I might just decide to let them take over this year.  Who needs a lawn anyway?