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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

A Garden Post

Posted on 2008.08.17 at 00:05
Tags: , ,

Note: this is a garden post; Tolkien and Frodo are not discussed. Also, there are lots of pictures. My apologies to readers with dial-up.

One of my old Tolkien messageboard friends, maewyn, has for years been beautifying her LJ with splendid illustrated accounts of what grows in her garden. From time to time I’ve said, "I ought to do a garden post, too". But I never have. Because, for the first time, I bothered to take photos of the gardens as they unfolded this year, I have the images necessary to make a post. My husband provided a lot of these pictures, too.

So, for you garden fans, here’s a report of what grows in my garden up here in chilly northeastern Minnesota.


First of all, this is a cold place. My little city, Duluth, is ranked as the coldest city in the United States. There are towns north of here (and in inland Alaska) where the temperature sinks further down, but because our summers are usually coolish (because of being next to cold, clear Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes, and larger than Denmark), our city's *average* temperature is lowest.

Our cold is cold enough, however. For people familiar with U.S. hardiness zones, which are based on the lowest temperature of the year, Duluth is in the warmer end of zone 4. With my own eyes I have looked at the thermometer on the side of the house, early on a winter morning, and seen it read -28 F (-33 Celsius).

In Western Europe, the only countries that even have a zone 4 are Sweden, Norway and Finland, and that’s only away from the sea. Stockholm and Oslo are in zone 6, like New York City. In the United Kingdom, although it is so much farther north, the Gulf Stream makes the winter weather much milder. London is in zone 8.

But this zone thing can be misleading. The hardiness zones are only based on winter low temperatures, not average temperatures. Raleigh, North Carolina is zone 8, a city with mild winters, yes, but hot, humid summers. Seattle, Washington is also in zone 8. It has mild winters, but comparatively cool summers. Duluth, though, is zone 4 all the way. Cool summers and icy winters.

Here’s some of the icy winter. Here is our daughter making a fort in the snow piles by the driveway, at the end of January in 2005:


Winter can be lovely when it's snowy and bright, but it's often snowy and grey, for weeks on end. It just lasts so long.

To picture this area, if you are from Europe, picture Finland—away from its coast, which is warmer—and you’ve got the idea. There is even a town called “Finland” not far away. A lot of Finns emigrated here in the 19th century, and why not? It must have felt just like home with our big, cold lake like an inland sea, the sub-arctic forest and the thousands of smaller lakes.

The challenge here is finding plants that are hardy to zone 4. Duluth gardeners can’t help sighing looking through the seed catalogues, pining for the trees and plants that fill the pages that they can’t have. All of the perennials I grow can be found in warmer climates, but a lot of the species I’d love to grow, plants I know from other places I’ve lived and from books, simply can’t survive.

The other challenge is the presence of plant predators. The birds and chipmunks and squirrels are not bad, and the occasional racoon or fox or skunk doesn’t bother the plants. But we have had an explosion of rabbits in the past few years, which are very cute but do a lot of damage.

One of the culprits, pretending she isn't there while I take her picture in the front garden. It was mid-May:


What the hoards of rabbits can’t reach, the gangs of marauding deer snag. There are bigger deer gangs every year. They are beautiful creatures, but very naughty to the plants. They killed the neighbour’s young apple tree over the winter, girdling the bark all the way around, and they nearly killed several lovely big shrubs in our yard doing the same thing (girdling). When they browse only the branch ends, the trees and bushes can recover. This year they’ve been worse than ever, bolder and more numerous. I've got used to them eating off all the hosta flowers before they bloom every summer, but this year they've been cropping off the leaves as well. Usually big plump mounds, many of the hostas look as though they've been given ragged crew-cuts.

The handsome courting couple strolled through our neighbourhood a few years ago in November. We rarely see a buck, just does and their fauns, but this was a lovely heart-throb of a male.


The pretty doe was very coy, repeatedly laying down in the grass then getting up and sauntering away when he got close. By the time my husband had his camera, they had crossed the street to the next alley, and it was the buck that was playing hard to get, and she was following him:


But pretty as they are, they are so bad! I haven’t been able to see my Asiatic lilies make it to bloom for years; they eat the buds off before they open. This year I did find one that made it. It bloomed in July. Elated, I took its picture. Which was a good thing: it became a deer snack during the night.

Here was my one and only lily, for a day:


Besides the rabbits and deer, there are bears. Luckily, the bears don’t eat the flowers, but they break down the bird feeders (they’ve ripped ours down three times) and strip off the apples that the deer don’t get first.

The first summer we lived here a full-grown black bear surprised us as we worked in the yard one day. He paid no attention to us. He was just passing, sauntering through the backyards. I ran inside, frightened. My husband ran inside, too, but to get a camera. He wasn’t fast enough. The bear had wandered out of range by the time he’d found it. We soon learned to keep the camera at the ready.

Bear [ha ha!] in mind, we live in town, not in the country. They must come in via the green spaces along the creeks that run down the hillside to the lake, and along the mostly unused railroad tracks nearby that goes in and out along the lake shore.

My husband photographed a different bear four years later. He saw it going down the street, in the middle of the day in July, and followed it to take its picture. Here is Mr. Bear nosing around in front of a house a few blocks away, close to the nearest creek:


When we moved here in 1999, there were some full grown birch trees left from what used to be a grove all over the neighbourhood, but the yard wasn’t much, and the house needed a new paint job. The previous owner had, however, established a nice perennial garden just below the front window. Through divisions, I was able to fill the expanded gardens mostly with her plantings, and I am grateful for it. I purchased a lot of now perennials the first few years, but most of them didn’t thrive and many died. The plants that came with the house are the ones that have done best. I guess the woman who gardened before me really knew her microclimate, even if her gardens were limited.

We’ve planted new bushes and trees, too, since all the old birches but one (that were here when we moved in) have had to be taken down. Someday, after we’re long gone, the new trees will be mature and quite lovely.

Here is how our house looked in April 1999, when we bought it:


This is how it looks now.

Late June:


Early August:


Early on, since we needed to fix the driveway, the garage's floor and its exterior wall, and also had to replace the sewer line from the house to the street, we put in a new driveway with retaining walls, plus new sidewalks for the front and side of the house. While we were at it, we planted new bushes and made additional gardens next the new driveway above the retaining wall, as well as a new garden on the NE side of the house. The garden under the front window was expanded.

The images below show the gardens along the retaining walls. They are lovely to look at from inside the house.

Late June:


Early August:



Below is the little garden on the shady NE side of the house, in early August:


In 2002, the city replaced our street. To smooth down a hill on the next block, they did some blasting to get out the underlying rock. Our neighbourhood, which is a few blocks from the lake, has clay soil spread thinly over the glacier-scored rock beneath it, the underlying rock ledges formed by cooling lava flows ages and ages ago. Along the lake shore, these rock ledges are exposed and great fun to climb on. But all the rock means that digging a hole to plant is often a challenge. Down by the lake, a good garden means having soil dumped out front. It’s a lot of work, carting soil in a barrow up to the gardens, but it’s worth it.

One of the rocks unearthed by the blasting was especially big and beautiful. It sat for days in the middle of the dug-up intersection. What were they going to do with it, I asked the foreman. Give it to a guy up the street, he said. It would cost more to drill it apart and haul it away, but since the guy said he’d like it, they’d roll it up to his house and put it in his front yard. What?, I exclaimed, sighing. Had I known they were going to give rocks away, I would have asked for one, that one—so big and beautiful.

Two days later the foreman knocked on my door. Did I still want that big rock? Yes, please! They’d decided, it turned out, that it would be too difficult to roll the big rock up to the man’s house, which was up the little hill. It would be much easier to roll it down to mine. They’d give him some smaller boulders that were already up there, instead. I was ecstatic.

So, with an excavator they rolled it down to our house, and, with it and a big bulldozer, they pushed and shimmied and shifted the thing up onto our yard, between the buried utility lines and behind the new water line. Furthermore, they got it positioned facing the most aesthetic way, with the top side up. The top bears the long claw-like marks from the glacier that once moved over it. What artists they were, with their earth-moving equipment!

Here are the workers rolling the rock down the excavated street:


Here they are beginning to position it. That was on July 19, 2002, a red letter day for people who love big rocks.


Here’s our daughter with her friends standing on it, once it was in place. They called it “Pride Rock” (from The Lion King) and loved to play on it.


The rock looked a little bare sitting there at first. One of my neighbours asked me why in the world I wanted that rock in my yard. Since I thought it was wonderful, I was shocked by his remark. But I guess it did look rather like it fallen from space. I put in a garden in front of it, and planted bushes I thought make it look like it had always been there. A few years later, the same neighbour said he had really come to like it.

Here's “Pride Rock” in August. It shows how it looks now, after the flowers and bushes have filled in around it.



This is what was in bloom in late June:



Below are shots of the expanded flower bed under the front window, showing it in four different months of the year.

Covered with fresh snow at the beginning of April:




Late June:


Early August:


Here are photos of the new upper garden along the driveway retaining wall.





Two from early August:



To conclude, here are some close-ups of our hardy cultivars, just because they’re so pretty.

Pink hardy Azalea (bred for northern winters), in mid-June:


Cream Achillea and red Monarda in late July:


Perovskia and yellow Achillea, in late July:


Campanula, in late July:


Echinacea and 'Shasta' Leucanthemum, in early August:


Liatris, Perovskia and yellow Achillea, in early August:


Detail of Liatris, in early August:


Hemerocallis fulva, in early August:


So, that’s it, my one and only garden post. I hope you garden fans out there enjoyed it!

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maewyn_2 at 2008-08-17 13:42 (UTC) (Link)

*does happy dance*

Mechtild, your garden is amazingly beautiful! Your growing season is obviously shorter than ours (which is pretty much all year round!), and the riot of colour that erupts over this time is absolutely breathtaking! It's like they know they have a limited time to flower, and they fit it all in that short time with great abandon!

People often comment on our unusual native flowers, which are so very different to what they have in their part of the world. Well, I must say that most of the flowers you have are all totally new to me! I do recognise lilies, daisies and azalea, but the rest...

What a pretty flower is the campanula - it's gorgeous, covered with raindrops. The picture with the Liatris, Perovskia and yellow Achillea is very pretty, with all those different colours mixing together.

I also approve of your rock! It looks totally natural with the shrubs and flowers around it. And your grass is so GREEN!

You have to believe that you have made me very happy to see your flower post! Thank you so much for this. It was well worth waiting for!
mechtild at 2008-08-17 17:59 (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh, Maewyn, this is lovely coming from you, garden-picture queen. You are right, probably, about not seeing some of these flowers. Campanula grow all over Europe, I think, although perhaps not this cultivar (whatever it is; it came with the house). The Liatris is a cultivated prairie flower, called things like "Gayfeather" or "Blazing Star" as common names. Echinacea is a prairie flower, too, I believe, called "Cone flower". People make a pleasant, soothing tea from it. I've seen Achillea everywhere we've lived in the U.S., but maybe it's native to this continent? Perovskia's common name is "Russian Sage". I don't know if it's originally from there or not. Monarda is commonly called "Bee Balm" and I don't know where it's from. It's grown all over the U.S., though, and is probably another cultivated prairie or meadow flower. They all love full sun.
(Anonymous) at 2008-08-17 14:40 (UTC) (Link)

and, honestly.....

it actually is more beautiful in person! I've had the honour of being a guest in Mech's home. Even though my visit was in late October, still, all was very beautiful. To this city girl, who rarely is treated to more than a 'sip' of grass (and I do mean "sip", not 'slip'), it was a wonderful thing. How to explain to those whose home is in the midst of the truly 'living' places of the earth what it feels like to have the jewels of the earth all about you? It feels...... it feels like the very stars are singing and as if you have come home.

Thank you for this lovely post, Mechtild, and thank you for sharing your garden-as-was with me when I visited.

p.s.: you know, i think it is time (and MORE than time!) for some coney-and-bear-and-dear stew. Those naughty sneak-thieves.

p.p.s.: i had hoped you would include The One Rock in your post, and there it was. It's a lovely and evocative bit (HUGE bit!) of natural history, that rock. I am so glad you have preserved it. That's very Frodo-like, dear, having a care for even those things that have no sentience, but have worth, nonetheless.

(see, and you thought there would be *no* Frodo in this post. He's *everywhere*, isn't he, for those 'with eyes to see'..... Of course....Samwise would approve your garden, as well. But I doubt he'd put a whacking great rock in the midst of it!)

(I must also mention the beauty of the little black-and-pink rocks down by the lake....they put me in mind of that poem by Mary Olivor (in fact, the poem is apt for the beauty of your gardens, as well):

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

May we all know such grasses, and (more importantly) may we all know the reason *why* we should know them.

mechtild at 2008-08-17 17:53 (UTC) (Link)

Re: and, honestly.....

What a wonderful poem, and what a mind and soul to have written it! Who is Mary Olivor?

And you are right: an eye that appreciates the lovely things of this world permeates the post as it permeates Tolkien's writing. Yes, Frodo and Sam are "here", as are all the good characters, all of whom appreciate the great gift that is the natural world.

Jan, I had no pictures of the back and pink rocks we saw near the jetty in Two Harbors, but I will post this lovely-coloured outcropping on the shore ledges farther up, in Grand Marais.

just_ann_now at 2008-08-17 15:14 (UTC) (Link)
The deer pictures: Ooooooo....

The bear picture: OMGWTFBBQ! (And Mr. Marwalk comes running to see what the commotion is about.)

The garden pictures: Oh, dear, oh my, I am so jealous. Your monarda! Your liatris! Your yarrow and daylilies and Russian sage! I love the way you've shown the progression of your garden at various times of year, how it fills out with the seasons. The Pride Rock - I looked at the first picture, and then looked again - where did that rock (a BFR, we used to call them - Big, Fine Rock) come from? But how thoughtful and generous of your Public Works department to haul it and excavate for it (though, as you say, it must have still be easier for them, else they wouldn't have done it.) It reminded me of rocks in parks and greenspaces in Massachusetts, where I grew up, a great glacial playground for kids of all ages.

I still can't get over that HUGE black bear, strolling with such nonchalance, like it's his own front yard! Amazing.

Your bearded iris are gorgeous - I get leaves, and leaves, but haven't seen a flower in years. I moved them, this past year, and got taller, fuller, thicker leaves, but still no flowers. *Sigh* And is that a trumpet vine, between your front window and your front door? Or one of those red-and-yellow honeysuckle cultivars? Oh, envy, envy, envy.

(I immediately emailed lady_branwyn about this post; she's much troubled by deer in her suburban neighborhood. Though I can't see that the deer depredations have really effected your garden much. *Envys some more* Thank you for posting these!)
mechtild at 2008-08-17 17:23 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, the bears can be naughty. There was a good story in the paper a couple of years ago when a frightened family discovered a mother and cubs were hibernating under their deck. They were left there, to see if they would leave when they woke up. I believe they did.

The bear stories can be sad, too. More than one distraught bear has been shot and killed by the wildlife staff, when they've got themselves stuck down on the lakewalk, which has limited access and no escape once they've got on it. There was a big bru-ha-ha when a young bear was killed in front of tourist families, but the natural resources person explained that trapped down there as it was, it constituted a danger. Asked why they didn't tranquilize it and release it in the woods (all silly to people up here who hunt bears anyway), he explained that bears are very territorial. Unless they could return it to its own ranging area, it would merely be driven out or killed by the resident bear. He said it was unfortunate and not his favourite task, ordering such a killing, but it was more merciful to just shoot the bear.

The vine is a Dropmore Honeysuckle. I believe they are all over the U.S., but they are hardy to zone 4. Here's a close-up of ours:


Occasionally they do poorly. Ours was plagued by aphids and mildew until it looked terrible. The next spring I cut it back to the ground. It grew back looking very healthy! Now that I know the strategy works I'm going to use it on both of them should they succumb again(there's one on the SW side, too). I don't want to use poisons if I can help it.

I can't imagine why your iris aren't blooming. They do very well here with no care at all; people are always throwing away their extra divisions when they can't give them away.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2008-08-17 18:00 (UTC) (Link)
So glad you like our rock! I loved it even just sitting there like an asteroid, but it does look much nicer with the landscaping blending it in.
bagma at 2008-08-17 16:24 (UTC) (Link)
My hostas get eaten only by slugs... At least your predators are photogenic.:)

Seriously, the way you managed to turn a rather poor garden into such a colourful tapestry is truly awesome. And I love your rock; it looks as though it has been here for centuries, with all those bushes and flowers around it... Beautiful!

Thank you for this fascinating guided tour of your garden!
mechtild at 2008-08-17 18:04 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Bagma, I'm so glad you enjoyed the tour. Yes, it's a great rock. I didn't know the striations on top were glacier marks, you know. A science professor who lives down the street stopped by to look at it just after it "arrived", and told me what they were. I had asked the street crew to try and get that side up because I thought it looked best that way, aesthetically. But I think it's cool that it turned out that that really was the top, sitting under the ground that side up since before the last ice age.
pearlette at 2008-08-17 16:25 (UTC) (Link)
To quote one poster above, OMGWTFBBQ at the big black bear!

LOOK at it! *stares*

*stares again*

Holy cow. Bloody HELL. A bear! A great big black glossy bear nosing around nonchalantly on somebody's tidy green lawn! In front of their spotless, posh, white house! *shakes head* WOW.

I like the 'no, you can't see me' rabbit.

You have a lovely garden. :):):):):) And house!

mechtild at 2008-08-17 18:09 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, a BEAR! And that wasn't the first or last one. Read my reply to Ann Marwalk for a few more Duluth bear stories.

The rabbit was the mother of bunnies in a nest under the window. When my husband saw a new nest had been dug there earlier in the spring, we both agreed: let's get it out of here! They really are *everywhere*, the rabbits. I've become very sympathetic with Farmer MacGregor. So Glen got some mothballs to pour down the hole to make it leave--the neighbour said rabbits hated the smell of moth balls. So he went out and brushed away the litter the rabbit had left over the hole, and.... he couldn't do it. He came back in, Mr. Hunter Person, and hung his head. "I could see the little babies in there; I couldn't do it." Awww. See why I love him? What kind of person can harm helpless young things when they come across them, innocent of their danger? It's quite another thing to chase them when they're wiley adults.

Edited at 2008-08-17 06:10 pm (UTC)
bellewood at 2008-08-17 19:09 (UTC) (Link)
What a beautiful post..and what an absolutely beautiful garden! For someone who's weather is so inclement you've done amazingly well! I'm not much of a gardener.. am reluctant to spend what little spare time i have pulling up weeds ;) but i'm a great admirer of such a well kept riot of colour! Maybe i should take a tip from you and fill my garden with perrenials :)
mechtild at 2008-08-17 20:37 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Bellewood. Perennials are easy to care for once they are in, but they do need to be weeded. A neglected annual bed can just be tilled under in the spring, but a perennial bed gone to weeds is usually unreclaimable. Me, I love perennials. I used to love annuals when I was a girl, because they are always in flower and it was the flowers I wanted. But later I came to appreciate plants for their overall habit: the shape of the plant, its height, colour and the sort of foliage it had, not just their blooms. If you like compositions that work with the leafy parts of plants, not just the flowers, perennial beds can be very satisfying.

Another of the charms of perennial beds is a result of the very fact that they only bloom for a couple of weeks: the display changes as the weeks go by; as some plants lose their blooms other open. It can be a great pleasure to see how the garden changes over the growing season.
(Anonymous) at 2008-08-17 19:39 (UTC) (Link)
You live in such a gorgeous part of the world, Mechtild! You've made a wonderful garden ~ it's absolutely beautiful, despite the cold climate. August is a very colourful month! The Pride Rock rocks! I love how you have planted around it ~ it looks so natural. We only have room for small raised beds and pots in our small space. Our several clumps of campanula (more purple in colour than your lovely ice-blue variety) do quite well, despite the lack of direct sunlight in our yard.

The bear wandering down the street is amazing! The deer are beautiful, and so is the rabbit. Hubby and I adore trees, shrubs and flowers, but we are also animal lovers, and could never do anything to harm those naughty creatures ~ they would no doubt take great advantage in any garden of ours! Bless your hubby for being kind to the baby rabbits!

Are all these pics of your front and side garden? Do you have a back garden too? Anyway, I am envious! Thanks so much for sharing.

~ Blossom
mechtild at 2008-08-17 20:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Blossom. Yes, it's at its height of bloom from mid-July to early August. I don't want to kill the animals, either, but I'd love for them to magically dwindle. What I have done--the same as with problem insects--is to stop planting things that the predators prefer. I wanted hardy roses when we moved here, but they soon became ugly from leaves eaten by catepillars and infested with aphids, the blooms deformed, or just eaten off by the deer, which like roses a lot. So I just gave up, pulled them up and planted something else. Because of the deer, I stopped getting more asiatic lilies. I just love them, they are so exotic and showy, especially the tall ones. They make great centerpieces in a flower bed. But what's the point? The deer eat the tops off before they ever get to bloom. I loved hollyhocks, too, but the deer eat the tops off them, too. The side garden not pictured is backed by hollyhock stumps this year. The hostas are so lush and there are so many, I am not going to stop growing them. I'll think of them as broad-leafed animal fodder!

The garden with the hollyhocks came with the house and I've only made it slightly bigger, adding some new plants over the years. It's early July below, with not much yet flowering. There's a lone hollyhock still sticking up, you can see.


I have no "before" pictures of that side of the house, though, so I didn't bother. There are some nice trees and a rocky area with shrubs and plantings in the back, but the back of the house itself is as plain as plain, with no gardens. Here's a view of it from under the old crabtree. Just some plastic chairs sitting on drainage gravel (from a previous owner, addressing a leak in the basement).


But it looks nice from the gravel. To the left of this photo, the back of the yard is sort of a mini-wilderness, where I've planted iris and yarrow and lilies and hostas and lilac bushes which are now big. But the back of the house: bleh. We've been saying we are going to build a deck or a terrace, which I then will landscape around, but we never have had the money to do it.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
lindahoyland at 2008-08-17 19:53 (UTC) (Link)
Your garden is beautiful,thank you for sharing! Mine looks like the jungle!
mechtild at 2008-08-17 20:31 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome! And jungles can have a great deal to offer, I think. :)
maeglian at 2008-08-17 20:48 (UTC) (Link)
Well, I enjoyed this a lot. :-) Thank you for sharing all these lovely images and with your interesting and personal commentary. Your house looks very nice, and your gardens are beautiful, the flower beds so lush and colourful. It's easy to see that they are very well tended, with care and love. And all that riot of colour despite the deer being so intrusive!
mechtild at 2008-08-17 21:03 (UTC) (Link)
Thankfully, the deer don't like everything I grow. Everything you see in bloom is what they don't care to eat. They are training me, over the years, not to keep planting things they find tasty. :)

The gardens in front and on the sides really are nice now, Maeglian. But I think you'd probably like the lake better, so vast and clear and changeable, depending on the skies. I wish we had a view of it. But it's nice to know it's so close.
alyrthia at 2008-08-18 02:15 (UTC) (Link)
I love seeing different corners of the world my friends live in. I think it's lovely thinking about what someone else sees as they look out their window and type their post in lj. I love the space you have and what you have done with it.

And yay for bears and bucks, I have to say!!! Quite impressive!!
mechtild at 2008-08-18 03:04 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Alyon. :) But you must have a lot of wildlife up your way, too. Or does it never venture into your actual neighbourhood?
stillscarlet at 2008-08-18 10:51 (UTC) (Link)
Oh my goodness, where do I start? Mechtild, your garden is an eye-opener, and no mistake! Absolutely beautiful; you've planted it with an artist's eye and a Gamgee's green fingers. Wow!

Rocks with glacial striations - I've got those too. Several in my garden, but none as big as Pride Rock! I want one, now. :D

I also have naughty animals... rabbits, possums, the occasional sheep who scorns fences... even, conceivably, a deer (as the property we live on includes a deer farm) - but holy hell, imagine having a bloody great BEAR ambling about on the front lawn! What a concept!

Thanks for giving me a glimpse of your natural habitat. It's gorgeous.
mechtild at 2008-08-18 12:33 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Scarlet!

I also have naughty animals

Well, I'd *expect* you to. You practically live in a nature reserve under the eaves of the Fiordland Wilderness. But we live in a town of 80,000! But I guess it doesn't matter, since we're surrounded by country otherwise. The animals don't care if the country outside of Duluth is a stretch of boring-looking scrubby woods (the result of the original forests of northern Minnesota being logged over a century and more ago, all Eastern White Pine, which made great lumber and ship masts, then replanted in fast-growing poplar and such for paper and pulp).

You have glacially-scored rocks in your garden? That's super. Isn't it cool to have such geological mementos? But I can't get you a Pride Rock. We couldn't even have bought one. When we moved here I saw rocks for sale in the nurseries, lovely sparkly ones from South Dakota, but they were much smaller. The biggest was about the size of a park bench. They couldn't be too large to pick up with a front-loader and put into the back of a pick-up truck, which was how they were conveyed to your house. I suppose a very rich person could secure rocks of this size, but what a fortune it would cost!

If the street crew couldn't have rolled this one half a block downhill to ours or someone's house, they would have had to drill it apart to be able to lift the sections and cart them away. I'm so glad they didn't. Even if we didn't get it, it's such a magnificent rock, and so wonderful with all its glacial imprints telling its history, it would be a shame to spoil it.

P.S. You mentioned having possums. You know, I don't think I've seen any here. There are loads where we've lived in the past, in the eastern states. There are always victims lying on the road sides where my mother lives (suburbs of Washington, D. C.). But do they damage gardens? I wasn't sure what they ate. We occasionally see a woodchuck by the road side here, and I've seen dead beavers near wet lands, and even an unlucky porcupine. But no possums. Maybe it's too cold here for marsupials?

Edited at 2008-08-18 12:37 pm (UTC)
frodosweetstuff at 2008-08-18 12:45 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, this was soooo lovely to read and look at! :)

You were so lucky to get that rock! It really looks a treat. And the before/after pics of your house and front garden were great too. You must spend a lot of time on gardening though. Ours is mostly a "practical" garden, that requires little work and I hope that one day their travels will lead Frodo and Sam our way and Sam will take pity on us and turn it into a second Bag End... ;-)

Thank you!
mechtild at 2008-08-18 13:05 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Frodosweetstuff, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't have to spend much time gardening anymore. I shift a few each year, weed, put on mulch. We have to cut the dead tops off and take them away in the spring or fall, but that's it. The main work is done.

What is a "practical garden", a vegetable garden? I would love to have a vegetable garden, but it's awfully cool by the lake. Winter vegetables do fine, but not the summer ones I really want. I have tried growing tomatoes twice, but they never ripened before the first frost came. Also, the place available for it would be in the back yard. A new garden would require a big load of soil (the soil is very poor here--heavy clay) and neither my husband or I are keen to wheelbarrow yards of soil back up there anymore. A small "skid steer" machine could carry it up there, going between the houses, but it would be expensive.

My husband's parents, who live in a shore town twenty-five miles up the lake, are far enough away from the water that their yard is sunnier and warmer, thus better for vegetables. Maybe we should make a vegetable garden there....?
not_alone at 2008-08-18 14:32 (UTC) (Link)
These pics are absolutely stunning, Mechtild!! I can't imagine what it must be like to have deer and even the occasional bear wandering around outside. You live in a beautiful place and your house is so lovely:)
mechtild at 2008-08-18 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
Why, thank you, Not Alone. Yes, it's nice "being in nature" except when they're eating the lilies and trashing the bird feeders, but I was surprised, when we moved here, that there was so much deer presence right in town. (Not to mention the bears, which are seen only occasionally; I do think one was napping in the brush between our house and one behind us, though, in a little cosy space where we dump dirt and woodchips for later use; there were droppings there that looked like the sort of pats bears make.) But even though this really is a city, with a harbor (for freshwater and ocean vessels: these come from the Atlantic, up the St. Lawrence and through the Great Lakes), tall buildings, a downtown with a tourist area, miles of established neighborhoods, etc., it is a city in the middle of open land. Outside of Duluth there are just a few country houses and small hamlets scattered around. The closest city that is comparable or larger in size is Minneapolis, which has millions of people. It's 150 miles south of here. But there's nothing much in between, really. I suppose that's why so many large animals end up passing through and even taking up residence in town (all that free food in bird feeders, gardens and rubbish bins).

As for the house, I have to say I was deeply disappointed when my husband first drove us up to see it. He'd seen it in person before we bought it, but I hadn't. I thought it was incredibly drab in person. I'd always wanted an older two-story house, anyway. (This is the first home we've ever purchased, having moved around before that, living in Coast Guard-provided housing.) But after we spruced it up and made the yard nicer, I became quite fond of it.
illyria_novia at 2008-08-19 07:56 (UTC) (Link)
I second Maewyn's dance of joy. Your garden is lovely, especially since not only have you combined some colors but texture (and topography, ha!) as well.

And you have deer and bear in your neighborhood! And rabbit! *is entranced*
mechtild at 2008-08-19 12:16 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Illyria. Yeah, texture is important. It wasn't when I was young; I only wanted blooms. I loved annual gardens teeming with cutting flowers, densely packed as living bouquets. And those are indeed a delight. But when I walked through the traditional perennial garden at the small country home I was touring I was disappointed. Where were all the flowers?

Later I came to be a fan of perennials, their habits, the way they work as part of a larger composition, in which colour, habit and texture of a plant is as important as the flowers they will bear. It's a deeper satisfaction, somehow, and more expressive of Nature (expressing the changes within the season, for instance), something I only appreciated as I got older.

Edited at 2008-08-19 12:16 pm (UTC)
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