Five years ago, after we had to cut down the diseased and clearly dying mulberry tree which shaded the whole of my backyard, I worked up a design for a tall arbor; three lattice panels held up by four tall posts. I intended to plant a couple of grape vines to grow up over the trellis and replace the shade tree. I bought the materials – the posts, the trellis pieces, the 2x4s, a couple of sacks of cement and the hardware, and had Roman the Neighborhood Handy Guy come over with his post-hole digger and do the work. We had a lovely high-end tenor wind chime, a Christmas present from Mom, which Roman installed in the center of the middle arbor panel. I bought some grape vines at Rainbow Gardens, planted them in the ground by the outermost vertical posts, and awaited nature to take it’s course in covering the arbor with bearing grape vines. Which Nature has, in her own sweet time. One vine – the native adapted Spanish grape – romped up the post and into the lattice within a year or so, the other went at a more decorous pace, but now the end panels are well-blanketed in vines. Something – possibly the bitter freeze earlier this year – sent the grapevines rocketing into overdrive, and now both of them have sent three or four ambitious tendrils up into the center portion of the arbor. It will be most splendidly shady when the vines cover the entire arbor and shelter the back of the house as the much-mourned mulberry did on summer days when the afternoon sun burned into the yard like an unappeased fury.

One side of the trellis, and center section

Heck, I might even get some grapes out of the enterprise, if I can beat hungry birds and field rats to them.

The back yard is due for a serious reno, yet again. The forementioned bitter cold snap in February killed all the potted cycads, the Daughter Unit’s pomegranate shrub, the potted lemon and lime trees, as well as the calamondin orange, which had exploded the pot that it had been planted in and sent a taproot deep into the soil. Alas for that – we cut it down, dragged it all to the curb for city brush disposal this week. The native-adapted plantings, like the firebushes and Russian Sage have roared back after the killing frost annihilated everything above the ground and several inches beneath it, so there is some green in the place. And I have scored a sapling pear tree and a persimmon, in the last few months, to add to the tiny backyard orchard.

Betty, the single hen who survived the horrific slaughter earlier this year, also died a couple of weeks ago. Not certain how, or what of – a kind of organ prolapse, I surmise. We’ll start again with backyard chickens, when the back garden is grown enough to resist chicken depredations, and I can afford to have the back fence secured against whatever it was that got in and killed the other hens. Curiously enough, the chickens might have been responsible for a couple of rogue plants that appeared out of nowhere: a tomato bush and a pepper plant. I used to save vegetable scraps for the chickens, and obviously they excreted a couple of viable seeds in the right place … this is the first time that I have ever seen this in my garden and reminds me of a mention on one of the Ace of Spades gardening threads. Another gardener remarked that the best-bearing tomato plant at his place sprouted in the compost bin where he had thrown away the remains of a McDonalds’ hamburger. So between care of Wee Jamie and temperatures in the nineties in the late afternoon – the garden awaits a little careful tending over the next few months.    

The other end of the trellis, with the vines that haven’t grown so fast

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    one year a friend of mine who worked inspecting water treatment plants brought us a load of compost from one of them and we used it to bolster the garden down the front walk. And, sure enough, a few weeks later, we had cherry tomatoes growing down our front walk

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