Monday, September 27, 2010

Project: Rustic Arbor

We had several severe thunderstorms over the summer. Many trees fell over and lost branches as a result. I love using branches to make my own trellises (see previous post Branching Out), but have always wanted to take a bigger step and build a rustic arbor. Well, this summer I had the chance to do so.

The local dump was overwhelmed with fallen branches after the storms and I had a lot of wood to choose from - FREE wood. I tried to find four relatively tall and straight branches for the main structure of the arbor. I ended up with four cedar posts that someone dumped and two large, tall branches, as well as an assortment of other branches to use for the sides and roof.

Free wood haul from local dump.
This project requires two people to piece together the sides and roof. Once again, I called upon my favorite contractor, Big Bern. Depending upon your stamina, this project may also require some, ah, reinforcement (beer). Also used were a box saw, power and electric drill, hex / carriage bolt screws 6-8" long, and a number of drywall and decking screws in varying lengths.

Tools and "reinforcement."
I began construction by piecing together the sides. They are connected with relatively hefty pieces of wood because we can get some pretty strong winds here in north country and I don't want the arbor to blow over. It rests on the ground. The branches (and posts) are bolted together and were sawed off to make them somewhat equal in height and length.

Sides bolted together.
We temporarily braced the sides together before adding the roof. Here is where a second person is really needed to hold up the sides while the other secures the bracing. We used some leftover wood we had on hand for the bracing. We decided to construct the arbor where it was going to be placed because "rustic" means "not straight and perfect." I did use a level on the sides to make sure the arbor was resting evenly, horizontally, on the ground. I dug out or added dirt beneath each of the four main vertical posts as needed.

Sides temporarily secured with bracing.
Then I selected pieces to make the frame of the roof. These branches were also sawed off to make them close to the same length. We then attached this framework on top of the four main posts. Again, it is helpful to have a second person hold the branches in place while the other secures them.

Roof framework.
Roof attached.
From here on out I was able to complete the arbor myself. I added cross branches and "joists" on each of the four corners where the posts met the roof framework to make the structure more sturdy, and then removed the temporary bracing.

Cross branches and "joists" added to sides.

I added a cross piece on each face of the roof framework. Then I began adding the roof by placing branches vertically along the framework. Being short, I needed a step ladder. I held up the branches and marked the length of each with a marker, then pruned them off before screwing them onto the framework.

Roof under construction.
Roof completed.
Finally, I added some decorative branches in a fan shape. I have a half circle of log that I am going to place above the cross bar on the front face of the roof as you enter through the arbor. On it, I plan to engrave "Mohala," the name of my garden. I will also extend the mulch path to include the entire arbor.

I now have a grand entrance to my potager. It will also give this garden some presence over the winter. The shadows from the branches should look pretty across the snow.

You could probably finish this project in a weekend once you have gathered the wood. I took my time and worked on it here and there over the summer. Can't wait to grow Scarlet Runner Beans over this arbor next year!

September's Featured Bee

The month of September in my North American Native Bee Calendar purchased from the Great Sunflower Project, features the Longhorn Bee, genus Melissodes.

These bees emerge in late summer and nest in the ground. They are small to medium sized with golden brown hairs over much of their bodies. Both sexes have a fuzzy thorax and noticeably hairy legs. The males are smaller than the females and have particularly long antennae. To view images of Longhorned Bees click here.

Many plants of the Asteraceae family, such as sunflowers, are highly dependent upon these bees for cross pollination.

You might spot a Longhorn Bee if you grow cosmos, blanketflowers, sunflowers, tickseed and beggarticks (Bidens).

In June I featured the Leafcutter Bee. Some of you said you see evidence of Leafcutters on your roses. Well, I just noticed this myself on my swamp rose!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's Growing

The nights are getting chilly around here ... my husband says it's "Mexican weather." Time to bring in as many tomatoes as possible. I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti is one of my favorite meals. We also made tomato juice, a family recipe - with extra tomatoes we bought from the Amish farm - so refreshing in the middle of winter! It also makes a #@!* good bloody mary.

I've been harvesting brussel sprouts for dinners. Had a little trouble with black rot on these and ended up trimming off the bottom leaves and using a copper spray to keep it at bay. If I had caught it a little earlier I don't think it would have been troublesome at all. Not bad for my first attempt at growing these little brussels - I still have a good harvest. But sure would welcome any tips or advice from vegetable gurus.

Still harvesting the super swiss chard! And it still tastes and looks beautiful. This plant would look good in any border or landscape whether you ate it or not. Definitely on my list for next year.

My potatoes look like alien creatures! Maybe I'll put them out for Halloween.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Next year I will grow all the root vegetables in the raised beds. Nice soft dirt should make for more appetizing shapes, right?

Nasturtium is taking over my potager. It's a jungle creeping into my paths and climbing over my beds.

The flowers look so beautiful to me, how could I eat one?

I never did ... until now. Why not? It's a jungle out there! The flowers are delicious - the leaves are good, too. I am now a shameless flower eater. I love how they look and taste in my salads. Borage is another I've been munching on and will grow again for next year.

Taste before beauty I say.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's Blooming

Out front Sedum Maestro is attracting a lot of attention from passersby - of the bumble bee variety.

The Cardinal Climber has reached its tendrils up to the of the porch lattice and is finally in bloom. Sadly, the hummingbirds have already moved on, but maybe those on their journey from further up north will chance upon its blooms.

In the butterfly garden Autumn Joy has taken the stage behind the blooms of Switch Grass 'Dallas Blues' whose blades will turn a beautiful gold color come the winter snows.

In the pollinator garden the Cosmos and Zinnias are still blooming in full force and are frequently visited by bees and Monarchs.

In the new woodland edge border, asters left wild are a cloud of tiny white blooms and new spontaneous, irresistible purchase Little Lemon golden rod seems to be a hit.

Along the drive, more Switch Grass but cross Ruby Ribbons in full bloom and whose blade tips are just beginning to turn red. The obedient plant is always abuzz with bees and Monarchs. Another spontaneous purchase Clematis 'Comtesse De Bouchard,' and one I do not regret. She has not stopped blooming since being planted.

An all time favorite just added this year is Coreopsis Moonbeam. And a first for me - my Moonflower is in bloom. Each morning I am greeted with another full moon at least 6" across.

Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. Visit Carol's blog and if you'd like, add your blog to the list so we can view your blooming blog.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Going Native: Bellflower

... or at least I thought I was going native by letting these Common Ladybells - Adenophora confusa? Adenophora stricta? Adenophora liliifolia? - pop up and grow here and there among my perennial beds. Confusa'd is right!

OR these may not be Common Ladybells at all, but Creeping Bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides, deemed to be a noxious weed, invasive, and even EVIL! Apparently there is a way to determine the difference ... something about a glandular disk, bumpy appendage, flat base and sticking style ... For those of you who would really like to know resources include Campanula rapunculoides, The Evil Twin and Adenophora and its "Evil Twin" revisited.

Either way, all of the above are European cultivations gone wild. A TRUE native to this area (NY) is Harebell or Bluebell Bellflower, Campanula rotundifolia, which has delicate, whispy stems.

But since I have observed many bees and hummingbirds use these not-really-native flowers, should I let them grow wild within the confines of my garden? I don't usually let the seedheads stand over the winter to keep them under control. They are not taking over.

There are those that believe going native is to only grow plants native to the specific area of which they are in. Others that believe growing plants native to North America in suitable conditions is perfectly acceptable. Still others grow natives alongside exotics and cultivars. I am not sure where I fall on this scale. For now, Ladybells and Barberry live in my garden. Most of my plant purchases now seriously consider native origins but since I am a plant addict, I find it difficult to resist a beautiful bloom or leaf color. Hmmm ...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Garden at Singer Castle

Every two weeks I have been painting plein air with a local group of artists named PAPTIR (Plein Air Painters Thousand Islands Region). This past week we were privileged to paint on the grounds of Singer Castle on Dark Island.

It was very hot and all painters needed to find a location / viewpoint to paint from in the shade. Although I was inspired by the walled garden it would mean painting in the afternoon sun throughout the entire day. I opted for the front door. Throughout the day I heard the tour guides knock three times before entering to alert the ghosts that are believed to still live here.

For a small fortune you can spend the night here. Halloween night might be a fright. But imagine looking out from your castle window into the walled garden.

I was told that the woman who restored this garden uses only heirloom plantings. Luckily I was able to capture a few pictures before the last shuttle to the mainland left. The rocket larkspur (I am guessing) was particularly striking. I must add this to my garden! Verbena bonariensis, globe amaranth and dahlia 'Arab Queen' are my best guesses for the other beautiful highlighted blooms. Hummingbirds darted all about. It was enchanting as only a castle can be.


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