You know you've been working hard when...

You know you've been working hard when the head of your sledgehammer flies off the handle. The term "flying off the handle" has a literal meaning for me now (hee hee). I was swinging away at the "acres" of concrete slab I have to remove, and voile! The head flew right off. But never fear. After a quick trip to the hardware store just around the corner, I had a bright and shiny new hickory handle to put the sledgehammer head on. It's so nice swinging that new handle now. The other one was pretty warped (I don't know if you can see it in the photo at right).

You also know you've been working hard when the muscles in your thumbs ache. Who knew I had muscles there?!?! And just to set the record straight... just because I'm able to swing a sledgehammer at concrete like an insane woman doesn't mean I'm in great physical shape. I'm a short chubby woman with lots of determination and stamina who gets a twisted sense of satisfaction from hard manual labor. So if I can tackle this ridiculous task with all my physical issues, anyone can. You just have to be a little crazy (okay... maybe a lot crazy).

Speaking of crazy... you know you've been working too hard when filling up the two-wheeled wheelbarrow with the "smaller" chunks of concrete seems like a good idea. Trust me... it isn't. I had to empty the wheelbarrow by hand, flinging the chunks into an empty flower bed, before I could move the thing. I must have been delirious with endorphines from swinging the hammer too much when I thought up that bright idea.

You also know you've been working hard when suddenly you realize that a whole week has gone by since you last posted to your blog! Oops! How did I lose track of a whole week so easily? Does that happen to anyone else once they get working in the garden? I certainly hope I'm not the only one.

Anyway... without further adieu, here's what's blooming and growing in the Rosehaven Cottage gardens right now. Enjoy!

You can view any of the images larger by clicking on them.

Above left: The first bloom on the Our Lady of Guadalupe rose that went in this year.
Above right: The blooms of the Cherry Parfait are more spectacular that I could have imagined last year when I put it in.

Above: The Golden Showers climbing rose is the perfect backdrop for the pond waterfall and birdbath in the back garden.
I can see this gorgeous rosebush from my studio window.

Above: The Japanese water iris, New Zealand flax, and aloe look great against the backdrop of the Golden Showers rosebush too.

Above: My favorite gazanias ever are all in bloom under the Princess Di Bower Vine on the front pergola. Isn't the color beautiful?!?!

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What is Everyone Looking At? ~~by Lucy Maud

Today there was a lot of peeping and chirping outside Mommy's studio window. All the peeping and chirping was making all the big kitties chatter and chirp too. They were all staring. I'm small so I got to be in front of all the taller kitties. It was very exciting to see what was making all the noise.

My friend Thomasina can do a very fancy acrobatic move and jump up on the middle of the window. She was able to get a better look then me because she was higher.

When I tried to jump up with Thomasina, she got mad and did what Mommy and Daddy call her "Tasmanian Devil" impersonation. I don't know what that is, but I make her do that a lot.

But she still loves me (as long as I don't bite her feet).

Mommy was even watching all the chirping and peeping outside the window. Mommy likes to watch through that big black thing with one eye. Sometimes it's more interesting than what I'm looking at.

Mommy said my name and I turned around to see what she wanted. I'm pretty smart because I know my name is Lucy. When Mommy or Daddy say my name, I come to see what they want even if I'm having a great time looking at something else.

Oh yeah... I almost forgot... I was looking at something outside the window wasn't I?

I wonder what it is that's making all that noise and makes my whiskers quiver...

My friend Dee Dee says that it's called a bird. She even let me stand up in front of her at the window to get a really good look.

And the bird had something in its mouth. It would sit for a while and then disappear into a hole and LOTS of peeping would happen. Then when it came out again, it didn't have anything left in its mouth. It did this again and again.

Dee Dee says that we are "birdwatching". I like birdwatching.

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Act Two of Spring Begins

Around here, by the time mid-April rolls around spring has been underway for a couple of months. February usually kicks off spring with the early spring blooms like the crocus and daffodils. So by now, all the bulb blossoms have bloomed and faded leaving the stage free for the flowering shrubs and bushes to put on their show of the season.

Although I greatly anticipate the sprouting and blooming of the bulbs, I always look forward to this time because the profusion of color is no longer close to the ground but is up at eye-level (sometime higher), and the garden is ablaze with its springtime palette. Even at a good distance, one can appreciate and enjoy the spectacular display.

Even small blossoms like the tiny Breath of Heaven (left) can't be missed simply because of their sheer quantity. Breath of Heaven bushes can get quite large in our zone. I planted ours in the spring of 2001, and it's already about 5 feet tall and almost as wide. In the spring breezes, the whole giant orb of light and delicate branches sways and "dances" to a silent melody.

Another spring favorite at this time of year, are all the insects that are out and about in the garden doing their job and keeping nature in balance. I'm always happy to see little critters wandering around the blossoms laden with pollen like the bug on the Lilac Hibiscus (above left). I am also always pleased to see my good friends, the ladybugs, wandering around throughout the garden. As I go about my garden chores, I watch for flashes of orange so I don't harm any of these helpful little ones when they happen to be somewhere I don't expect them--like sunning on the garden hose (above right).

The roses are all putting on their first big show of the year. The climbers that I planted in 2006 along the southwest fence of the back garden are quite happy in that sunny location. Despite the summer heat, they fare very well with just a dripper a piece at their bases to give them water. Right now, their deep roots are still enjoying the benefits of the winter rains. The Joseph's Coat (above left) is just one of 7 rosebushes growing along the fence. Of those 7 bushes, 5 are covered with blooms right now which I can see just outside my studio window.

I am happy to report that the plum tree is still covered with little green plums. This will be the first true crop I've had in about 3 years, and I'm tickled to death about it. We did have some 40 mile an hour winds two days ago that knocked a few off the tree (I was very sad) but there are still enough left that I should be able to enjoy fresh juicy plums in a few months as long as nothing else comes along to disturb them.

And finally, a spring favorite that never really stopped putting on a show--my pink mystery rose. Planted here long before we came to live at Rosehaven Cottage, this bush was cut to the ground when we bought the house, and I finally discovered it as the garden started coming back to life over the first couple of months. I soon discovered that its a climbing rose that needed a trellis. I found a nice craftsman-style trellis for it shortly after that discovery, and its been a very happy rose ever since. Like most roses, it likes to be trimmed and pruned vigorously and always thanks me with these amazing pink blooms that are often 6 inches in diameter when full-blown. It has a nice traditional scent and is amazingly disease resistant. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what variety it is? I have yet to figure it out.

And that's my spring favorites... for now anyway. I can guarantee that in the next few days, I'll find something else that qualifies as a "favorite" too.

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Cool Flowers on a Hot Sunday Garden Walk

Above: The view today of the front garden path leading from our front door out to the pergola

This weekend is unseasonably warm in our part of the world. The sun is bright and the air is bordering on oppressively hot. We're having to run the air-conditioner for the first time this year because the temperature monitor reads 87 F (30.5 C) in the shade. We get the odd hot weekend in spring here in the Bay Area so this isn't really unusual. It will cool off again in a day or so as the winds shift and the cool air blows in from off the Pacific Ocean.

Despite the heat, I went out in the garden to take photos of some of the spectacular blooms that have been coaxed open quickly by the warmth of the sun. And I found little pockets of "cool" in the blues and purples of the blooms around the garden. I've written before that I have a weakness for all blooms that are blue or blue-ish in hue. You can imagine how tickled "blue" I am with the current state of the garden.

My bearded iris are doing very well this year. In fact, many of them are blooming for the first time EVER despite being in the ground and producing spears for years prior to this. I'd begun to lose hope that I'd ever see a bloom and figured I'd just have to enjoy the great dagger-shaped foliage of the iris (which I love).

But this year has been a good year for the bearded iris (guess they just needed to get acclimated). And as they've bloomed they've each been a little tiny surprise package for me because I had forgotten what colors I planted! Add to that all the moves I'd done to the rhizomes from one part of the garden to another, and I've lost track of everything all together in the bearded iris department! I know. Master gardeners much be cringing as they read this. At least I'm admitting it right?


This bearded iris may be a Dover Beach (I know I planted that variety at one time) but I don't think it is because the Dover Beach has a whiter top to it and less yellow on the beards than this one has.

Did you know that bearded iris have a "fragrance"? It's not the scent most people would consider to be a "fragrance", but like the other spring flower, the daffodil, bearded iris have a wonderful fresh scent that seems to just say "spring" for me. It's kind of like the smell that hits you when you walk into a florist shop but more distinct and uniquely "iris".

Did you also know that a lot of bearded iris have a pearlescent quality to their petals? So when you look at one in the right light, the petals glisten and glint like someone has sprinkled them with a pinch of pixie dust. If you enlarge the close-up photo at right you may be able to see the glistening on the petals at the top.

Moving on from the iris...

I am thrilled to bits that my Blue Ribbon rose is in bloom! It's blooms have a wonderful nostalgic rose scent that smells just like the rose scented lotions, potions and perfumes my Grammy used to have on her dressing table. When I breathe it in, the heirloom essence takes me back to times that were even before I was.

This favorite rose is a great producer that has about 2-3 really good "shows" each year. The blooms come out in large groups, put on a grand show, and then the rosebush waits for a month or two before its encore performance(s).

I like this rose because of its dark glossy foliage. Roses with dark glossy foliage tend to be the most disease resistant and trouble-free of all roses. So when I'm choosing a bareroot rose at the nursery, I check the package to see what the description of the leaves is and whether it says "dark glossy foliage" or something to that effect. If it doesn't, then it doesn't matter how much I love the photo on the front of the package. I put it back on the nursery shelf for someone else to buy and fuss over. I'll take naturally trouble-free roses anyday, thank you very much. And this Blue Ribbon rose is of that ilk. Combine that with being a "blue" flower and you've got a true winner in my book!

Now I'm going to go and relax in the air-conditioned living room with Hubby and wait out this heat until the evening brings cool breezes off the water.

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Houston, The Shed Has Landed!!!!

Well, it's time for a garden update.

In a previous post I wrote about my sledgehammering activities and how I was building a well-draining foundation for a new shed kit that we were going to put in on at the back of the garden.

I also wrote in a more recent post about my installation of the pea gravel into drainage trenches as well as the foundation pictured at left.

After all of that hammering and hauling it finally came time to construct the shed kit that we had purchased last year to go in this spot. The kit had been sitting under tarps during the rainy season, so there were some interesting critters when we uncovered it prior to construction. Some of the corrugated cardboard from the shipping container had deteroriated enough that an large earthworm family had decided to take up residence. They were relocated to one of the veggie planters. And a small Pacific tree frog had also decided the cardboard container was a good home. The frog was gently escorted to a nice sheltered spot next to the pond under some gazanias.

The shed kit was not easy to construct due to a set of instructions that mostly devoid of words and only used graphic illustrations and photographs for guidance. And quality assurance isn't all that great in anything nowadays so some of the parts needed some "coaxing" to fit together. But after two successive evenings of Hubby patiently tolerating my inability to "play well with others" when it comes to doing a joing project, the shed was finally up!

Drumrolll please...


Hubby went out the following evening and screwed in all the final screws that hold everything down. I still have yet to go out and position my shelves and hangers on the walls. I'm just happy it is done! It's petite 6x8 foot dimensions are so much more appropriate for the space than the 20x20 foot monstrosity that was there before and, thanks to wood rot and termites, was basically a safety hazard. Don't have to worry about termites with this new little number! It's all plastic. And it has a skylight along the "ridgepole" of the roof and two little windows on the sides to let in natural light so it isn't a dungeon. It even has venting on the front and back. Tucked under the big oleander it shouldn't be too sauna-like in the heat of the summer (at least I hope).

So here are some more views of the new shed that now sits nestled at the back of the garden in back of the pond, the plum tree, the pomegranate, and the Eureka lemon tree. The photos below were taken yesterday (yes, in our neck of the woods this is what it looks like in April).

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Mute Monday Montage of What's Blooming in the Garden Right Now

Click on any of the images below to see the photo larger

Above left: Dutch iris
Above center: Nasturtiums
Above right: Lantana

Above top left: Pink Weigela
Above top right: Purple tulips
Above bottom left: Golden Pacific Coast Native iris
Above bottom right: Pink Jasmine

Above top left: Lilac
Above top right: Cecile Bruner Rose
Above bottom left: Camomile blossoms
Above bottom right: Lilac

Above top left: Blue Dutch Iris
Above top right: Eureka Lemon blossom
Above bottom: First Cherry Parfait Rose of 2008
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The Most Recent Recipient of the Rose Medallion

I haven't posted much this week and one of the main reasons is the creative inspiration that I have received from Gretel Parker at Middle of Nowhere whose recent post On Being A Creative Butterfly has jumpstarted and motivated me into the artistic mindset that I've needed to get back into for quite some time now. So I thought it was only fitting that Gretel be the new recipient of the Rose Medallion so that I could honor her by sharing her blog with the rest of you.

The "Rose Medallion" is given by us to blogs that we find to be of exceptional merit in design and content. The blogs given this honor are those that we have found particular enjoyment, inspiration, and/or insight(s) in reading--blogs that have exhibited a passion for living.

Gretel is an amazingly talented artist in illustration, graphic and printing arts, and three-dimensional works of art using the exquisite art of felting. Her whimsical artwork has a moving quality that touches me deeply, as it not only resonates for me as an admirer of her work but goes the extra step of striking creative chords inside me so that I feel moved to begin creating my own artwork. Don't ask me why this is so, it just is. It is because of Gretel that this week I've been able to begin painting again after a hiatus (or "brick wall") that has lasted since since last fall. Thank you, Gretel!

Now, this "creative butterfly" needs to finish post so I can be off to the art store to buy another tube of watercolor I don't have.

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