Once more it’s time for this household’s annual blood sacrifice to our garden demons. Aided by a pal with infinite patience, I made a foray to a nursery/garden center to buy candidate perennials for our front mulch garden, and shrubs for along our northern shady side of my neighbor’s stockade fence.
And in doing so, I inadvertently added to our already growing collection of poisonous and poison-associated plants. First, for along the fence I bought four elderberry bushes. Anyone who has seen or read Arsenic and Old Lace knows the reference. The Resident Male will help me plant them over the weekend. Here they are in the garden center, innocently ignorant of their coming fate at my hands:
For the much garden my plan is to scatter specimen perennials across it, with taller ones in back, and infill the spaces between the survivors with additional plants in future years. This area faces east and gets morning sun, but quickly goes to shade for the bulk of the day, eclipsed by the house’s shadow. Here’s this year’s rogue’s gallery:
Top left – An aconite, also known as wolfsbane and monks hood. One of the poison players. It is supposed to top out at about four feet (about 122 cm), and sport tall blue flower spikes.
Top center – A strange mounding hosta variant with thin, curly crimped leaf edges. Too weird to pass up. He’s only going to be about 6 inches tall, and is in the front. Hostas are poisonous to dogs and cats.
Top right – a brunerra. Apparently we already had another variety of brunerra, a survivor of last year’s plantings. It has tiny star shaped blue flowers just beginning to open. Not sure what color flowers this one will have, but he is a much larger leafed variety, or will be when he’s mature. He’s in the middle area, and will be about 12 inches tall (about 30.5 cm) . Blissfully non-toxic.
Bottom left – A Heuchera, aka Coral Bells. I am also not sure what color flowers this one will have but it doesn’t matter. I got it because of the dramatic foliage. He will be about 16 inches tall (about 41 cm), bigger than the brunerra and is further back in the plot. Also non-toxic.
Bottom right – An astilbe. A BIG astilbe. This one will have purplish pink flowers, and grow to about 2 feet tall (61 cm). He’s in the back near the aconite. Not poisonous.
I moved a resilient peony that survived our decimation of the fence plot late last summer. He’s also in this garden in the hope he makes it. Big floppy white flowers with a pinkish tinge. He’s in a tomato cage in towards the rear.
These denizens join my small ground-hugging brunerra and my hellebore from last year. Sadly the blooms on the hellebore appear to have been knocked around in the recent windstorm, and their stem is snapped, but the foliage is growing nicely. And of course hellebore is infamously poisonous to humans and pets.
The backdrop to this garden with its mix of toxic and non-toxic residents? Why, a glorious Mountain Laurel of course. Itself on the lethal list. By the end of May it will look like this.
And the family photo – all the boys tucked into the bed.
As you can probably tell by the off-the-end-of-the pier style of my knitting and stitching projects here, not everything is fully swatched, graphed out, or perfectly planned before it’s realized. This may horrify some readers, but it’s the way I think. I prefer to learn on the fly, and don’t mind ripping back or starting again. For me, exploration is more fun than final product.
Case in point – the latest Wingspan. Let’s critique this thing to shreds:
Things I like:
- The basic Wingspan pattern
- The larger needle size/gauge for this particular yarn
- Using dice to determine hole size and placement
Things I don’t like:
- The color progression of this particular yarn
- This yarn in garter stitch
- The overall (near) finished look
- The combo of color, stitch and technique is too busy
One thing that made the last two Wingspans so dramatic was the long and gradual shading of the Zauberball Crazy. This was achieved by Zauberball’s dual strand ragg plies each cycling independently through their color ranges. In this full strand as opposed to ply-dyed yarn, color change is abrupt and the colors themselves are high-contrast. Speckles of the next color dot each block. (Now I remember starting socks with this ball, and not liking them either). The holes look less like airy bubbles, and more like the savaging of a demented moth army. And the eyelets, which work nicely in stockinette, look sloppy in garter stitch.
In total, I was Not Pleased. So this has been totally ripped back. I may play a bit with other stitches and this yarn, but in spite of it being a looonnnnngggg repeat, I am not confident that it’s right for a garter stitch Wingspan. However, the technique of placing eyelets in a fabric using a randomizing device to determine placement is still gnawing at me, as is thinking about other possible Wingspan variants. As a single project, this is a failure, but as a learning experience, it was valuable.
In other news, I’ve added to our house arsenal:
It’s a Korean-made sickle, sharp and sturdy. Similar ones have been used in Japan for centuries. They often figure in Anime, Samurai (and gangster) movies, both in their agricultural context and as weapons. We are close-in suburban here at String Central, and not out in the land of gentrified sprawl, so why do we need such a thing?
I cut the patches on the side and front of the house each fall, just after they bloom but before they scatter seed. I don’t want to be responsible for colonizing the neighborhood with the stuff, and I don’t want it to sit looking forlorn and frowzy through the winter. To date I’ve been clipping each stalk with a pruner, but that’s painful and time consuming. I am hoping that this tool will allow a swifter handful by handful harvest.
For those concerned with possible waste – I strip the leaves off the stems and re-use the stalks to build my bean trellis each spring. The leaves go to town composting. I also post about availability of (free) plant stakes each year on the local mailing list, and put them out on the curb for other gardeners to take.