80 Degrees Jan. 3-09

Someone asked me what kind of car I would buy if I could afford anything I wanted. You'll never guess my reply.

A backhoe. Really. They're incredibly versatile. Not great fuel mileage I admit, but you can rearrange the landscape, dig ditches, build rock walls, build a fishpond. Can you do that with a Mercedes?

We've had a backhoe here for 1 day and the backhoe operator dug up a row of 30 year old hedge plants. They were in an "L" shape, planted around a rock floor next to the well house. Which is beside the road. Back many years ago, we had no neighbors and no traffic. One car a week past the house was a busy week. So that spot was the outdoor shower. If you've never enjoyed taking a shower outdoors, you've missed one of the pleasures of life and nature.

But over time the road was paved, neighbors built houses, traffic increased and an outdoor shower was no longer necessary. It was incredibly useful in its time. After getting dirty from gardening, taking a shower outdoors and changing into clean clothes, kept a lot of tracked in dirt out of the house.

So the backhoe dug up the old hedge and we carted it off to the dump. In its place, we moved the overgrown hardy banana out of the garden, where it's grown for 2 years next to the fish pond. That was a fairly major job, an hour of digging, sawing, cutting, grunting and pulling and finally the clump of banana roots came out. The backhoe had already dug a hole about 3 ft. across and 24 inches deep where the hedge had been. Transplanted and mulched with straw, the banana can now spread and grow happily. It gets about 14 ft. tall in the summer and in unencumbered soil, it will likely reach 25 ft. tall this year.

The bees were all abuzz on the Oregon grape holly today. The holly starts blooming about Thanksgiving and will continue all winter and every day the weather is warm, the bees are out, getting their fill of nectar. The berries, "grapes" are good for jelly, I've been told, although I always forget in mid summer to gather them to cook. We reached 80 degrees this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. which made not only the bees happy, but me. I planted some hyacinth bulbs I bought at Home Depot last week, marked down from $10 to $3, and still looking fresh and worth planting.

The afternoon sun was shining across the western horizon on the bamboo, so I clicked a pic of that, as well. I've come to enjoy bamboo, which stays green all winter and continues to spread along our western fence. It's easy to keep out of the yard with the lawnmower and provides great poles for all sorts of garden projects, from pole bean poles to crosspieces for arbors.

One of the plants that shines in winter is the Proven Winner Euphorbia 'Helena' which turns a beautiful maroon in cold weather. It takes the heat of summer and will tolerate part shade. My upper garden is sunny for only about 2 hours a day and is under-grown with roots from nearby oak and juniper trees which makes it difficult for growing most plants such as roses, clematis, etc. But these new Euphorbias seem to like the spot.

Another plant that continues to surprise me is the cast-iron plant Aspidistra elatior. Grown mostly as an interior houseplant, it's earned its name here for being hardy to zero, and not minding hot summers. It never becomes lush, but it's alive and I may experiment with growing more for ground cover later.

Our 80 degree days won't continue. Historically a couple of days like this will be followed by 5 degrees for a few days, then back up to freezing. But if winter would stay like this, I'd quit complaining about the cold of winter and stop dreaming about a warm beach somewhere.


Grumpy Gardener said...

The mahonias are really underappreciated winter bloomers, especially leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealii). Not only are the yellow flowers quite showy, but they're also very fragrant. On a mild day, the bees are all over them.

Grumpy Gardener said...

The mahonias are really underappreciated winter bloomers, especially leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealii). Not only are the yellow flowers quite showy, they're also quite fragrant.

pond plants said...

well i also adore my garden. I just love it.

compost in my shoe said...

Are you building an outdoor shower in another section of the garden....I love having one...nothing like taking one in the elements....hey, you can come south for a little warm weather this winter!

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

I'm not quite sure what town you are in, but I'm near Portland and Beaverton, Oregon.

One nice thing about this area, is that United Rental can deliver a small tractor and backhoe, for maybe $250 per a day.

That way, homeowners can play around with the machine themselves.

One option anyway.