[This piece was originally written about five years ago, and has languished since in my DRAFT file.  I am posting it today because I don’t want to lose it into cyberspace.   This is the same garden, I call it the “tree garden” now, because the young trees mentioned herein are now maybe a 70 feet tall.      The garden itself is about 15 years old now, having been previously a cabbage patch and apple orchard.]


The garden is about 80 feet long and half as wide.  At first it was a patch of former farm land, on which grew plenty of cabbage and cauliflower for many years, and occasional specialty crops such as broom corn, tobacco, or cotton.   Well, yes, cotton doesn’t really grow in Ohio…at least it doesn’t make a very impressive boll.   Tobacco wasn’t exactly prolific either.  But this never stopped my late husband, who would always have a go at growing any legal crop.

But this blog entry is not about farming and crops.   It’s about a patch of ground which has grown into a wonderful garden.   At least I think so.   Most of the foliage plants and trees are volunteers–meaning they weren’t planted, but just appeared on their own.  There are maple trees which originated in a pot, from a seed that landed in a flower pot and grew unattended and unnoticed, and maples which just appeared…like Topsy.   There are other trees, growing from seed, I’ll try to find out their names.

Yes, there are some plants that came from a nursery: a bright red-berried Winterberry, and her counterpart the male Winterberry, Gentleman Jim.   Not sure that’s the proper name, but it fits.  There are two Hawthornes, one of which became ill and threatened to die, but it came back as green and lovely as ever.   Bittersweet, a plant I wanted because it was a favorite of my grandmother.  Assorted grasses.  A huge shrub-tree called a ——- and red flowers which have blade-like leaves.  A breathtaking yellow lily, which is spectacular when the rabbits or deer don’t eat it.   Rhododendrons, a deep rose color, bloom profusely, and are also a favorite munchy for the deer in winter.  Heather.  Two red rose bushes.  Six Boxwoods. Assorted other flowers.

Ten years ago I personally dug out raised beds, by digging out trenches or paths between the raised areas.   One of the paths is made of triangle shaped pieces of wood cut from the stairs when the house was built.

And of course the oregano…planted by husband twenty years ago, which has spread magnificently.   The slender spiky purple blossoms smell delicious, adding their color to the summer garden.

In spring some purple hogswort grows near a clumb of ::) in at one end of the path.

A variety of grasses have spread throughout the garden: Japanese blood grass with its red trimmed leaves, the tall waving Plume Grass, the striped Zebra grass, all lend their special charm.

An Oak tree that began life in a flower bed next door, now adorns a front corner of the garden.   A friend and I dug that tree out of its original location, which was not nearly as easy as it sounds, ten years ago.   This once struggling sapling–excuse the clichés please–is well on its way to becoming a Mighty Oak.   Another Oak, a volunteer which remained after pruning of the garden to form paths and island beds, started in a thicket of grass, weeds, and tiny seedlings which were culled to rescue an Oak and a Maple.  Both are now fifteen feet tall.

Last year in sorting through a large border area, a big Spirea shrub with rose colored blossoms had almost disappeared it had been so encroached upon by maple saplings before we resurrected it by cutting away some of the excess trees.    Those that remain are becoming stronger and taller.  Taking out trees selectively works for me, usually the smaller or thinner trees, a decision sometimes hard to make.   The pesky rose prickers are cut out among the trees that line paths which branch off into new areas, becoming secluded side areas.   Paths formed early on with the push mower.

The project has been very rewarding for more than a decade.  For the first few years only the youngest children recognized the paths and foliage areas, and loved to balance on the rather rickety triangle-wood walk.

Not as welcome, but beautiful in their own way, are the Multiflora Roses planted seven decades ago along the hedgerows of the farm.  Vicious prickers attack those who try to tame them.   They like the garden as well as the tiniest spring flowers, and lend their brand of wild beauty.

On its way, theoretically, to becoming a Fairy Garden, a child size bench and a chair painted a light green, with multicolor polka dots, are nestled amont the paths.  An abandoned bird cage found a home among the branches, and shines when the sun is slanted in the right position.  Yet to come, if all turns out as planned, are some colorful little “road” signs, some gourd bird-houses, some sparkly things to attract attention.

There are both cardinals and bluejays, among all kinds of birds.   They argue noisely over air rights and landing branches.  Rabbits and groundhogs make homes in the garden.  The deer wander through nibbling here and there in winter.

What is that saying about a garden?

…… to be continued.

What’s New at My Place, in photos

Cat shelter under construction
Cat shelter under construction.
The sun is setting, but partially obscured by clouds.
Oak leaves
The setting sun, cloudy sky. Horse barns in foreground.
One of few red Hibiscus this year, this is the last one…a bit battered but beautiful.
a rock, I think its quartz
Peggy in the maze garden.
Mawkin, posing.
This pruning tool was the subject of a massive search after it became lost under a pile of debris. We found it on the fourth search and did an appropriate Happy Dance.
white Hibiscus on its last hurrah
wooly bear
This wooly bear checking out some wood. He is all white, supposed to mean a mild winter–I think.

Poison Ivy and why I don’t like it….

 Poison Ivy.    <shudder>

[Disclaimer: I am not a botanist, but I do know poison ivy when I see it, and the Virginia Creeper vine is prominent in this area, and is often mistaken for poison ivy or other poison plant. The Virginia Creeper leaves appear to me to have notched edges, and the leaves are much larger than Poison Ivy leaves. Also, the color of the leaves can be deceiving on both plants, and both have berries and similar vines.]

Anyone who is not personally familiar with the ominous plant–which is not only quite innocent looking, it is actually pretty in its natural state, growing up a tree or in a patch, poison ivy hides (dare I say lurks) within innocent patches of grass or miscellaneous weeds…or flowers.

[Note the photo featuring the gorgeous aged log, with the single Poison Ivy sprig proudly displaying itself, the shiny bright green Myrtle, and the herb Oregano (which is another story.) The poison ivy is pretty much under control back in the tree garden, where this photo was taken.]

Poison ivy is often the butt of jokes, told gleefully by people who have never been afflicted with the full-blown rash.  Well, it is not funny!     For the uninitiated: poison ivy is a source of irritation ranging from a single tiny postule… or blister…to a full-blown patch of itching, red, swollen, infected-looking skin.

The first time I experienced this diabolical affliction was in Oklahoma, in about 1958.  Within a few hours of contact with the toxin I had Poison Ivy spread on both arms, the inside of my thighs, and the rash was shiny and evil-looking, and the itching was almost uncontrollable.  I had to be physically restrained from scratching the rash.    No amount of Calamine Lotion, or alcohol (rubbing or otherwise)  helped.

For about twenty years after that I managed to avoid poison ivy.  But then when I moved to my present location in the 1970s I got it numerous times over the next few decades.

It does seem that my body has developed some degree of immunity to poison ivy, but I still get it.     I can feel it when it begins, when the first little bump develops.    There is pain associated with a poison ivy episode, and a general vague sick feeling.  I have told the doctor that it reminds me of hemorrhoid pain, but he just laughs at me.  HE has never had poison ivy.

Which reminds me I did have a hilarious exchange with my chiropractor a couple of years ago.  I had poison ivy on my face and neck, and he was reluctant to touch the area.   I told him it wasn’t  contagious, and cautioned about my theories of scrubbing the skin well with a strong soap if and when he actually was in touch with poison ivy (pun intended.)   When I was waiting to pay at the desk, the chiropractor came out of the back and entered the general restroom, where supplies were also kept, and “strong soap” was available.   He looked at me and said “I’m going to wash my hands real good, like you said.”  We both laughed about the patient (me) advising the doctor (him) to wash up well.  .

THEY, the poison ivy experts (–that is people who have actually had it personally) have compiled lists of FACTS about it.  This is not theoretical information, but actual suffer-and-scratch poison ivy veterans.

  • poison ivy can NOT be caught from someone else second-hand
  • poison ivy CAN be spread by birds, the wind, smoke from burning brush, direct contact such as pulling out with one’s hands, brushing by the plant and grazing a hand or leg, from petting the DOG who has been out running through the fields, it knows no season, that is– it doesn’t have to be green, or even a leaf…it can be a dry vine in the dead of winter.
  • the poison ivy rash infection persists for 10 DAYS (ok, they often hedge on this point, but take it from me it lasts for 10 days…and when it is gone it is just gone, except for a slight scar-like “echo” at the original site.

Then there is the “go to the doctor and get a shot” advice crowd.   This is effective when the victim (er, patient) is pretty much covered with the rash.   We took my oldest son for the shot treatment one time when he came in the house and said “Mom!  I have it everywhere!”  Taking his word for it, he did get the injection.   The serum  was effective.  We also have some prescription ointment that helps with the itching and pain.

The single, most effective, and absolutely best way to avoid the outbreak of the poison ivy rash is prevention–soap and water.     There are special soaps that are intended specifically as “poison ivy soap,” but I have found that ANY strong soap  is effective in washing off the poison that causes the outbreak in the first place.   Obviously reaching a place to wash up is not always an option, but I think the purpose is simply to remove the toxic substance and prevent infection.

Another thing that I have found is that wearing long-sleeved shirts and jeans or other long pants is always a good idea when hiking or working around an area where poison ivy exists, or is likely to exist.

Right now, even as we speak, I have poison ivy infection on the tops of both hands, near my wrists.   The patchy area is red, and slightly swollen, and itches like mad.  Fortunately it is a small, contained area.   A huge bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide is always handy,  and serves to soothe and disinfect areas of open rash.  (Some say bleach works, too.)

Huh…I hear the thoughts “why the heck didn’t she apply her accumulated knowledge and avoid the exposure?”   In my defense, it was just a “stray” leaf or two hiding among some grass in my Hibiscus that caused my current rash on my hands.  I knew it was there, and fully intended to go into the house immediately and wash it off.    (You know what they say about good intentions! 🙂

My Maze and Tree Garden

DSC02660 Here is a wide-angle shot of my backyard. This is very early summer, 2015. For perspective, the width of the area shown  is about 80-feet. That is my yard-boy (er, Son) with the wheelbarrow. The maze with the succulents in the center, the Chimenera with its Mexican Emblem, in one corner….the old bench. The wooded-area across the far edge of the photo is my Tree Garden. All of the trees and plants in this garden (and elsewhere in the yard, are either volunteers, or shrubs/trees that I planted personally about ten years ago. It is a labor of love, much more work than I am now able to do. I still prune trees to make paths through the garden. Until recently, the only members of the family that understood where and why the Tree Garden was there at all, were the youngest children. I have more to say about my garden, and many photos…and will soon post about it. I chose this photo to use here in response to my PHOTO101 prompt for today…”HOME”… suggested showing in a wide-angle or panorama shot. As is the case with many of my photos, this was taken from my back deck.

The Deer in the Tree Garden.

More than likely no one really cares a mite, but I really need to write a note about the photo I have in my header of my blog Sometimes.  First, I admit that it was chosen because it was needed to have a sort of neutral photo for a new theme I was trying out.  (Or an old theme that was back in favor.)  I previously had a picture of some beautiful red Hibiscus flowers, but even I was getting tired of them..

This photo is cloudy for two reasons: it is shot through the less-than-pristine glass patio door; and in the rain.  The reason I grabbed my camera and hustled up some shots is…well, because it is a deer.  I love deer, and see them fairly often, but they are elusive…especially when in photo range.  This photo turned out fairly well in that it also features my tree garden, which I have discussed previously.

Deer always manage to sneak up and stand in the yard in some picturesque pose.  My deer photos usually leave something to be desired, such as lining up the deer so that there is a wind-chime-bug coverning the deer’s head.  Or it’s the rear end of the deer…not that white-tailed deer rear ends are not cute in and of themselves.

So when I peeked out the window and saw the deer standing by the full-blooming Rose-of-Sharon, with a “ok, let’s take the picture, lady…” attitude, I got it.

The point of this post is that in keeping with the “spruce-up-your-blog” campaign over at WordPress, I admit that mine needs a lot of work.

Speaking of sprucing-up, I hope that I’ve settled on a theme for awhile.  I am using… uh, let’s see… Bold Life theme… one which I flit back and forth to because I like the colors, the lay-out, and it just seems comfortable.     As I have said before, in the past two months I have changed fifteen times, many of them back and forth to Bold Life.  The problem I have with switching themes is that it left me having to drag-and-drop my widgets every time.  Yes, I know there is a simple way to do that, but I didn’t know it until just a couple of days ago.

So anyway, that is what I wanted to say about the deer header.  It remind me of a sort of water-color or blurry painting (not being a visual artist I wouldn’t know an impressionist painting from a cubic style, if there even IS such a thing.)   OK, so the stylized photo of the deer, the droopy wildflowers, and the soggy hanging Million-Bells plant, is more the result of poor photography skills.

Another thing, while the subject is up on screen…I am working on developing a writing work ethic in which I write every day.  No excuses.  The hazard here is that once the material starts flowing out of the brain, through the keyboard, onto the computer screen…well, let’s just say I get carried away easily.

Wouldn’t it be some kind of poetic justice if I were to LIMIT my writing time each day?