be nice to your plants

Hello everyone; indeed, it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to bring you the latest and most up-to-date news from our garden. You may remember me from such enjoyable posts as “Cactus And Snow” and “The Awful Smell”, among so many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose. This is what you’re supposed to do on a winter morning when it’s snowing. After your walk, of course. 20140201001Later, I wanted the guy I live with to give me a biscuit, so I put on my sad face. Like I’d never eaten anything in my life, you know, and was about to keel over.

14020106I got a biscuit, of course. That “cheap, ugly mat” is something he bought for me so I wouldn’t slide on the floor.

As I said, it’s snowing. It’s been snowing for two days, and it’s supposed to snow for at least a week. The guy I live with says, “You think a week of rain is depressing, try a week of snow”. He says things like that. I ignore him. I think my mommy did too, which is why they were so happy together for so long. He’d say something, and she’d roll her eyes and quietly sneak downstairs, and I and my buddy Slipper would follow her, leaving the guy I live with to say things about snow with nobody listening.

One thing that he says makes sense. Wet, heavy snow is bad for conifers. Or can be bad. He has a “snow pole”, which I bet most people don’t have. It’s isn’t really a snow pole, it just becomes one. He says that’s the difference between using the poles for the tree saw, and utilizing them as a snow pole. I have to listen to this stuff all by myself now.

20140020102You might think this is a trifle eccentric. Having a snow pole, I mean. It’s to knock wet, heavy snow off the tops of conifers, which he says is important. You see this Cupressus bakeri here,

2014020103well, this is what it looked like on the morning after the big blizzard of March 2003.



The guy I live with was really put out, though as you can see the cypress grew back, but has never been quite the same since. That’s why he has a snow pole.

I have some more pictures of the blizzard, just in case you think I’m exaggerating the amount of snow that fell.




All the lilacs were flattened.











That’s the shed, before it got painted green.


















The guy I live with surrendered to the elements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, see? That’s why he has a snow pole. He was kind of worried about the Arizona cypress in front, because it doesn’t have any branches on one side. He planted it too close to the house, but he says he thought it would die instead of grow. After the blizzard, the whole tree was lying flat on the ground, with its roots exposed. He pushed it back up and roped it to the house, or something.

You can see a smaller cypress, planted this year, covered in burlap, too.

14020105After the snow was shaken off, the guy I live with disassembled the pole and went inside to look at the forecast, because he figured it was going to be in the 70s for the rest of the winter, like it can be, but the forecast said a low of 3 tonight (I guess that’s about -16C) and cold, cold, cold for a whole week, and he suddenly realized that would be too cold for the seed pots on the shelves, and so he moved them into the refrigerator in the garage, and said it was “a job well done”, and that was that.

There might have been something else for today’s post, but, if so, I’ve completely forgotten what it was. It must not have been important.



Until next time, then.


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20 Responses to be nice to your plants

  1. Today at the Great Rosarians event at the Huntington, I was talking to my friend Loddie, one of the curators of roses at the Denver Botanic Garden. San Marino basked under gorgeous blue skies with air so clear you could see the nearby mountains. Loddie described how she had to dig herself out of the snow to make it to the airport. Now I believe her.
    Especially like the double dog photos. And all that snow, of course. I’m sure one day, Chess, I’ll be struck by lightning, but it’s especially nice to savor those snowy views while enjoying sunny warm weather.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with says snow is really overrated. Way back when, somebody probably thought it built character to have your hindquarters frozen off constantly during winter. I like snow, a lot, except for the ice in the paws business, but that big blizzard was kind of scary. March 17 to 19, 2003. I forget, but it was probably really nice before it rained for two days, and then the snow hit.

      The guy I live with tries to be philosophical and says that maybe some of this snow will eventually melt into the garden, say in a couple of months. So much of the garden is entirely dependent upon precipitation that he tries to pretend that snow is a good thing, and says things like that. The plants are asleep now, but maybe when they wake up, the snow will be melting. It would be cooler if it were different colors each time it fell, though.

  2. Deborah S. Farrell says:

    Maximus (that’s MISTER Maximus to you)!
    Loved seeing you & Slipper braving through the dog snow path. Have similar photos of my black & white dog on a snow path.

    • paridevita says:

      It was a lot of snow. Turned old junipers, etc., along Denver’s parkways, into mulch. The guy I live with says it didn’t melt until 2004, but I think he exaggerates. From now on, though, he does knock snow off things, when it’s really wet snow. The snow now has dried out, to the regular kind.

      • Deborah S. Farrell says:

        Maximus is the name of the storm dumping snow on you now. I like that they now give names to winter storms as well as hurricanes. Now we know who to blame. Plus it serves the same function as giving names to flora and fauna – specific communication (the goal, perhaps imperfectly realized).

        The damage done by the (unnamed) snows of 2003 in your photos reminds me a lot of the damage done here in 2009/2010, first when Hurricane Ike blew through in Sept. 2009, and then an unnamed ice storm hit in Jan. 2010. Hurricanes hardly ever hit Indiana, but a freak confluence of atmospheric conditions directed Ike this way, and the aftermath was mindboggling – trees and utility poles down everywhere. It really looked like bombs had gone off. Our trees were unscathed. The ice storm did similar damage & left lots of people without power for weeks. We lost part of one of our river birches in that storm. You have to look real hard to notice the damage now. The debris from those two storms had not been cleared away by Derby day (first Sat. in May – a pretty big deal here in the Louisville area).

        The winds of recent storms/blizzards have brought down a LOT of small branches from the 2 river birches at the back edges of our property that were already here when we bought the place. Anyone who has ever had a river birch knows what I’m talking about. If you haven’t lived with a river birch, well, my advice is keep it that way unless you want to be out picking up branches after virtually every storm or have a place to plant it where dropped branches can be ignored. They are on the order of the pods that the guy you live with doesn’t like sweeping up.

        We did have a cedar in Flint, which was already there when we bought the house, & it was severely bent out of shape by a particularly heavy snow (don’t remember the year: prior to Aug. 2002 when we moved here). It eventually sort of straightened itself out. I decided that the remaining kink in it gave it character. I didn’t get bent out of shape about it.

        My main concern about the snow & ice this year is that starting next week, I will have to push my husband in a wheelchair up a moderately steep hill from the parking lot to his office building. Feeling a tad out of shape thinking about that.

        p.s. the photo of the guy you live with surrendering to the elements makes me chuckle every time I scroll past it. It also makes me cold.

      • paridevita says:

        Oh. Maximus. The guy I live with thought it was, like, a Charles Olson reference or something. I won’t let him watch the news because he freaks out. We don’t generally have big storms like the blizzard of ’03. There are lots of snowfalls that break branches of trees already leafed out in spring, or still leafed out in autumn, but he says we’re too far inland for a lot of things. The floods last year were a hopefully freak occurrence. We’re not fond of ice. The gutters over the garage had too much snow behind them (the sun couldn’t get to the gutters because of the snow) and so they overflowed, and now the driveway is a sheet of ice. I slipped on it on our walk last night (I’m okay). The guy I live with spread sand over it, so now I get to track that into the house …

    • Deborah S. Farrell says:

      So, Chess, how good are you at keeping secrets? I’ve yet to have a dog fink on me, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: even though I like poetry and have had a couple of my poems published (in local/regional rags), and even though I have an M.A. in English and have taught intro lit courses (to engineering students, no less) – despite all these things, I had never read Olson’s “Maximus, to himself.”

      Now, I could feel chagrined that a dog, exceptional though he may be, knows more poetry than I; but I prefer to think that my comment is an example of great minds thinking alike: Olson & I, we be riffing on the Maximus but good.

      I’m a total weather junkie. Love watching the Weather Channel. I understand how the guy you live with feels about the news – I hit the wall about every 5-6 weeks in terms of bad news overload, but I bounce back pretty quickly. Keeping abreast of all the political stuff is sort of part of my job as agent provocateur (as my cousin calls it). But I don’t consider weather ‘news’ of that ilk. I consider it gardening information, I guess. Anway, I thought you might enjoy seeing the list of names for the storms yet to come:

      •Nika (NEE-ka): From Greek mythology; the goddess who personified winning or victory.
      •Orion (oh-RYE-un): From Greek mythology; a great hunter.
      •Pax: Latin word for “peace.”
      •Quintus (KWIN-tuss): A common first name for ancient Romans, including Cicero’s younger brother.
      •Rex: Latin word for “king.”
      •Seneca (SEN-nick-uh): Roman philosopher and writer.
      •Titan (TIE-tan): From Greek mythology; one of the gods (the Titans) who ruled the Earth before the Olympians, led by Zeus, overthrew them.
      •Ulysses (you-LISS-ees): The Roman name for the hero of Homer’s epic, “The Odyssey.”
      •Vulcan (VOL-can): From ancient Roman mythology; the god of fire.
      •Wiley (WHY-lee): A nickname meaning “wily” or “tricky” in Middle English (Note: there is no W in Greek or Latin).
      •Xenia (ZEEN-ya): An ancient Greek word signifying the concept of hospitality.
      •Yona (YOH-na): A word used in ancient India to designate a Greek person (the Greek letter Upsilon looks like a Y, but is the ancestor of the English letter U; the letter Y was incorporated into the Latin alphabet after Rome conquered Greece, but it was used to write words from Greek).
      •Zephyr (Zeffer): From Greek mythology; the god of the west wind.

      • paridevita says:

        I rarely gossip about anything. For one thing, the guy I live with does so much talking that there’s little need for me to say anything. The guy I live with would point out, though, that in the Aeneid, the name Ulysses is spelled Ulixes. We rarely look at weather stuff because they always say how cold it’s going to be.

  3. Sharon says:

    So no ‘cabin fever’ going on yet, Chess? Seems there is access to some gardening chores so far this winter in the mile high burbs!

    • paridevita says:

      It was almost 70F last weekend (guess I just said that to Loree), and the guy I live with says that’s what winters here should be like. Sunny and 70. (That’s like 21C.) Sunny, 70, and dry. Could be that by the middle of next week (not this week), you never know. And then he reads things like “Don’t forget to winter water!!!”, with the extra exclamation marks and split infinitive (which turns out to be perfectly acceptable linguistically)….at which point the guy I live with realizes he’s starting to feel superior, which is quite wrong of him, even though he has never “winter watered” in his life. Well, his life in Colorado, anyway. I think it was last weekend, on one of my walks, where we could hear a sprinkler going in someone’s back yard. Since I’m on a roll, here, I think that the guy I live with has three distinguishing characteristics. He doesn’t know when the game is on today (today, right?), he’s never been on skis, and he doesn’t “winter water”. So like if you were searching him out at a gathering, you could shout out those things and see who raises their hand. He also can’t keep his shoelaces tied, but that’s another story.

  4. Kim Bone says:

    The guy you live w/ could break-up all this snow stuff by visiting Timberline and photographing Kelly and I get a bunch of weird cactus ready for the ‘Cactus Contest’ at this years Cactus Succulent Show. I am meeting him at 11am!!!

  5. Loree says:

    Now that was a lot of snow! Good lord. We’re in for a cold week too, record setting for February. Especially bad considering it’s been 50F and sunny. Poor plants, 15F is too cold for this time of year.

  6. pamit says:

    More snow tonight…I also had to knock that heavy, wet snow off the mugo pine, with my special snow-pole (which doubles as a broom). Yes, the effects of the big snow a few years back are still evident on some of the ponderosas here. Split tops and such. Ah memory. –Neat two-headed dog picture!

    • paridevita says:

      More snow, oh boy. You know, some time, it would be nice for a snow forecast to be as wrong as a rain forecast usually is. “Massive winter storm headed for Denver. Stayed tuned.” And then next day it’s 80 degrees.

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