Friday, May 13, 2011

Makeshift grape arbor

Years ago -- in the mid to late 90's -- I bought a muscadine grape vine on sale at K-Mart. I planted it in a corner of our tiny patio garden. After two or three years the vine covered the patio fence in two directions. And it started bearing grapes. Profusely. I didn't know what to do with them that first year. But for the next two years I made muscadine grape jelly which was a big hit with my family and friends. Then the Japanese beetles came. The vines were spilling over the fence and grape leaves are a favorite food for the beetles.
This continued for two years at least. Grape production went way down as the beetles chewed up and mated upon my beautiful grape leaves. No more grape jelly. Then one day I came home from work and found that my husband had cut my vine down to a stump. We pulled it up and started growing tomato plants in its place.

I did plant some seedlings from the mother plant in another patch of patio dirt. Soon one began to grow like crazy and I trained it to cover the roof of our little wooden storage shed. After two years of lots of vine but very few grapes, our condo's homeowner's association board told me the shed roof was off limits as a grape support. I cut the plant back drastically and saved the vines by twisting them into rough wreaths.

This spring I used the vines with a wisteria branch and a six foot aluminum tube a neighbor gave me a while back to make an arching arbor at the entrance to our patio. I'm hoping the pruned vine will bear more grapes. If it doesn't I might just replace it. For now I'll enjoy twisting it around the natural support system I've created.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Signs of spring April 2011

of garden
our sidewalk
displays ajuga,
and lemon thyme.

I've been away from home for several days and missed the flowering of our 15-year-old cherry tree. Its leaves are already out muting the cloud-like effect of the beautiful pink blossoms. The hosta were menacing sword tips breaking through the ground when I left; now they are unfurling their variously colored leaves. The purple iris and the lilac bush are in bloom as is our scraggly looking wisteria vine that will soon lend shade to the northwest corner of our front patio.

We have so many wildflowers (weeds) competing with the grasses in our front yard that it looks more like a meadow than a lawn. I've already begun to plot about using more space for herbs and perennials.

Speaking of grasses: The bermuda grass that once dominated the lawns of our condominium property is losing ground to a grass that lives throughout the winter in scattered patches that become monster hillocks in the spring. Another newly prominent grass type appears in tiny swirls top heavy with blondish seed cases that look like furry hair. It's an ugly, clumping grass -- my cousin Mary Frances calls it "nut grass" -- that grows alongside the flowering weeds that leave less and less room for the old bermuda. The nut grass and the monster hillocks seem fairly new to me. I've begun to notice them more and more over the past three years and often wonder if they are adapting to climate change better than the bermuda.