Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taller Quatrefoil

I added 2" in height to the quatrefoil trough mold from this spring, so that it's 9" tall now.  Above is the first cast.  It's a subtle difference but I like it a lot.  

Quatrefoil with rectangular Wilson trough above.  Both are only a month old; the gray color will turn a lighter brown-gray as they age.

Above, in the previous incarnation, with the same rectangular trough for comparison.

It's the small things, ya know?

Sunday, July 26, 2015


A few years ago a friend gave me a potted fig cutting about 2' high with the regular story, saying it was from on old Italian neighbor, but that she didn't have enough sun to grow it.  I reluctantly took it, knowing I had no room in the yard for it.  I know how much attention people lavish on their fig trees in this area, and, frankly, growing food is not my thing.  I put it in the largest plastic pot I had on hand and dutifully kept it in the cold basement all winter and the hot deck all summer.

Once it finally bore fruit in a couple of years, I was surprised that it was a yellow fig, not the common brown one that I had assumed.  The tree has gotten larger and larger in its plastic pot and the branches sprawl lazily out from the main trunk.  This spring when I carried it out of the basement I was surprised to see it set with the beginnings of a breba crop.  These few bonus figs are weeks ahead of the regular crop of fruit.  I had the first, warm jammy fig this morning before anyone else was awake.  

This tree is worth the hassle. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Two Highlights of a Hot Weekend

One of the delospermas blooming in a hypertufa bowl, with the bladder seed heads of silene uniflora 'compacta' visible behind it.

Two large rectangular troughs that I cast yesterday morning when it was still relatively cool.  I took them out of the molds and scrubbed them with a wire brush this morning, when it was NOT so cool anymore.  I'll seal them in plastic for 4 weeks until they're fully cured and ready for delivery.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Hypertufa

A friend in my NARGS chapter recently asked me to make a couple new planters for him.  We discussed many designs when he stopped by but settled on two that I don't make often.  The first is an oval bowl.  For this I made an inner mold of laminated layers of 2" rigid foam glued together and shaped with a utility knife.  The hypertufa bowl was cast upside down, packed onto the dome-shaped mold, with gravity and diligent packing with my hands helping to make it tight and uniform.  Keeping the hypertufa mix on the dry side is very important as if it's too wet it will just slide off the mold.

Before casting I wrapped the mold in shrink-wrap as a sort of release agent.  It also gives me something to pull on once the bowl's cured and I need to remove the core.

The finished trough is pretty good-sized at 24 x 20 x 10 1/2" high.  Those are my boots for scale.  

My friend admired an organic looking planter on my deck and asked if I could make a similar one. I probably made that planter about 6 years ago, with cardboard boxes as a mold.  Almost all of my molds are rigid foam or plywood now, and it's been a while since I've done one with cardboard boxes.  Above is the mold after I cast my friend's new trough.  The outer carton has the flaps folded down, with shrink-wrap around it for safety.  The inner carton is filled with sand.  The best and worst part of using cartons for a mold is that they begin to fail as you cast the trough.

The trough was thicker than normal, since the outer carton started sagging outward almost immediately.

I trimmed the inside walls with the sharp end of my brick hammer and then scrubbed the outside with a wire brush.  It's 21 x 21 x 14" high.  It definitely has that organic feeling that my friend wanted.

Now they need a few weeks to cure.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Random June Moments

One of the planted Copenhagen troughs leftover from the early June sale.  

View of our deck with fig tree.

An order of four troughs ready for delivery.

Tons of texture and color in the small garden by the garage.  Catmints are due for a haircut.

Detail of hesperaloe flower spike.  I brought a piece from the Brooklyn garden nine years ago.  This is the first year that it's bloomed.

Southern magnolia randomly throws beauty throughout June.

The deutzia and the hakonechloa grass are making entreaties across the path to the back garden.

The yellowwood tree (I can't call it a sapling anymore) must be 12' tall now.  I think it's been in three years now.  Maybe it will bloom in 7-8 years.

Annabelle is having her best year yet, probably because of all of the rain.  They aren't called 'HYDRA'ngeas for nothing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Wall of Troughs

This photo shows about a fourth of the troughs that I have in the yard.  These are in the driveway, along the north side of the fence, so they get a little afternoon shade.  The yew, kolkwitzia and hollies are planted in larger hypertufa planters.  Most of the smaller troughs have alpines in them, but there are a few tender succulents and annuals in the photo too.

My brother is visiting for the first time in 9 years and his first comment upon walking into the garden was 'How the hell are you going to get out of here when you move?'

We don't have any plans to move within the next year or two, although we don't plan on staying here much longer. I must admit that moving is always in the back of my mind when I plant a new trough for myself.  When the time comes, I hope it's an orderly evacuation.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Troughs for Sale June 7th

I'll be selling some medium-sized planted and unplanted troughs next Sunday, June 7th, at the Wyckoff Area Garden Club's garden tour.  

I'm looking forward to meeting the good gardening folk of Bergen County.  Please stop by the Barn Boutique and say hi if you're doing the tour.

Yes, you can lift these.   I'll help with the planted ones.