A Rose Trellis By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

My husband putting the finishing touches on our new rose trellis

I recently mentioned that one of my projects for this spring would be to convert our three unused flagpoles into a climbing rose trellis. Last weekend we had some cattle panels delivered and set to work transforming it into a floriferous paradise of climbing roses.

An order of cattle panels from the local farm store.

The flagpoles received a heavy duty mulching of corrugated cardboard and wood chips before we started. I’ll likely extend the mulch out another foot or so to provide ample growing space, and then add a border of pavers or large rocks to tidy it all up. But this will do for now — it was most important to get a decent amount of mulch down before attaching the panels.

The beginning stage of the flag poles turned rose trellis

Each panel is 16 feet long, and the distance between the two end poles is just about an inch longer than the panel, but we made it work with only the tiniest visible gap. We secured the panels to the poles with zip ties with a 120 pound tensile weight, so we don’t have to worry about them breaking. Cattle panels are surprisingly heavier than you’d think!

The second panel was added by butting it up against the already attached one, and then connecting them at the top with zip ties so it would act like a hinge — all we had to do was flip it upward, tighten the ties up, and have one person hold it while the other added the rest of the ties to the sides and middle pole. It was a quick and easy project, and I think we only spent 30 minutes on it, not counting the mulching (which we did the weekend prior).

The finished climbing rose trellis

Even though there’s nothing growing on it yet, it still looks much better than before, in my opinion. It at least looks like something now and provides a little visual interest.

I have two roses I’ll be planting here: climbing Cecile Brunner and Raspberry Cream Twirl, and there’s room to add another panel later on if they need more climbing space — did I mention they both climb 10 to 20 feet??

I’m thinking I might also propagate some lavender from our out of control “shrub” to plant at the bottom, and maybe I’ll add some clematis. It’s fun planning a new flower bed — I’ve got lots of options!

Next up I’ll start the process of removing the evergreen shrub border and figuring out exactly what kind of arbor I want — I love the planning phase.

If you need me, I’ll be in the field — starry eyed and dreaming of drifts and drifts of  fragrant roses.


So Close You Can Almost Touch It

The tulips and daffodils are stretching and unfurling after their winter slumber, the roses are budding up beautifully, and the cheerful chatter of birds is a welcome sound after the near constant patter of rain over the last few months. The first flower to bloom here is the humble periwinkle — so small I almost missed her presence. Spring is most certainly almost here.

Spring and I once had a fickle relationship — I never really liked her, never knew how to dress for her wildly fluctuating weather. I always wanted her to hurry up and pack her bags so summer could arrive. But these days spring feels like a new beginning, a palate cleanser — I think about how much we’d miss if we were always longing for the future and didn’t appreciate all the present season has to offer: the promising pink buds of the peony pushing up from the earth, the throaty gossip of the frogs at night, the fronds of the ferns slowly uncurling. Spring, while fickle, is fleeting, and I’m looking forward to savoring all she has to offer.

This season I’m trying to slow down and enjoy the process of tending to my place and observing my surroundings more, rather than focusing on how fast I can get something done, or worrying about how “far behind” I am compared to everyone else. My circumstances and goals are different from everyone else’s, so why should I feel the need to compare myself to them?

It’s so easy to get caught up in this game, telling ourselves, “My garden isn’t big enough, isn’t green enough, doesn’t have enough vertical interest. I’m not growing the trendy thing that everyone else is growing this year.” Sometimes it feels like a mad dash toward a finish line that doesn’t even exist.

Over the last month I’ve been watching my seedlings slowly germinate, brushing the palm of my hand against them so they don’t get leggy, and enjoying all that caring for them entails. I used to pine for a greenhouse, but now? Not so much. I’ve found what works for me. Sure, it’s different from what most people do, but I’m learning that’s fine; there is no “right” way to garden. There are multiple routes to the imaginary finish lines we’re all racing toward — each one a little different — and that’s something I’m trying to keep in mind as the season progresses.

After drafting up plans for this year’s vegetable plot and sowing more seeds than I know what to do with, it dawned on me that I’ll be in dire need of even more planting space once the seedlings are ready for transplanting, so I’m expanding the plot yet again, laying cardboard, leaves, and wood chip mulch — but I’m going slower this time.

The process is repetitive but soothing. I take pleasure in knowing the layers will smother the grass beneath, slowly decomposing into rich, healthy soil that will feed the plants and, eventually, our hungry mouths. I remind myself that homemade pickles, tomato sauce, and dilly beans come from mediocre gardens, too, and messy gardens where the grass continually creeps in, and even container gardens on apartment balconies. A great garden can take many different forms. “Great” is so subjective.

As I scoop shovelful after shovelful of wood chips this evening, plotting and expanding and dreaming about squash trellises and Brandywine tomatoes the size of my fist, I will tell myself not to rush, to enjoy the process, because my version of a great garden isn’t built in a day — and I can take pride in the work I’ve done to get there.

Winter Sown Update #6

Saturday's winter sown containers

Here we are, the last actual “winter” sown set of containers before spring is finally here! It sure doesn’t feel like winter anymore!

In case you missed it, I’ve already seen some success with my winter sowing project! So far I’ve seen germination from three varieties of cabbage, sweet peas, kale, hollyhocks, snap peas, and poppies. For some reason I’m still surprised it worked, even though I’ve been following the Winter Sowers Facebook group where other people have been sharing pictures of their success.

On Saturday I sowed echinacea, lupine, and pickling cucumbers. The ice cream bucket was a great container to use because it has a lot of space, so I really packed in the cucumbers — I’m hoping to can tons of pickles this summer. It was a fairly warm, if overcast, day.

Sunday was much warmer, with a high of 67 degrees! I opened up some of the containers so that they didn’t overheat and so the seedlings could get a bit of fresh air, making sure to cover them again in the evening since it’s still dipping down to the mid 30s at night.

Sunday morning I sowed a whopping 12 varieties of cosmos in these large food storage containers from Dollar Tree. I divided up each section with a popsicle stick and labeled the varieties with masking tape on the outside of the container.

Winter sowing different varieties of cosmos

Winter sowing cosmos

I also sowed chives, stock, and yarrow — the stock and the yarrow are the last of the perennials I was hoping to get started.

Making a perfectly spectacular mess

Just look at that beautiful blue sky! We worked in the yard a lot over the weekend, and it was pure bliss. My husband mowed some of the lawn and I now have a big pile of grass clippings to use for mulching once it dries up. I even took the tomato and pepper seedlings outside for a bit of fresh air!

It’s supposed to rain later this week (but still stay warm), so I’m glad we took advantage of the nice weather to get some stuff done aside from sowing seeds. We finished one of my big projects for the season, and I’ll talk more about that later this week.

In the mean time, happy early spring, and happy sowing!


A Room With a View

It’s been nearly two years since we bought our house, and I’ve had ample time to observe the surrounding vegetation through the changing seasons.

The first year it was exciting discovering everything the previous owners had planted into the landscape. Then, throughout the second year, I started thinking more about my personal garden design preferences and what I do and don’t really like about the current landscaping. I lean more toward a romantic, wild, cottage garden style, and, well, a good portion of our place simply doesn’t fit that aesthetic.

Namely, the view through these two windows in what I call our sitting room. The room gets so much natural light and I love reading in it, but the view leaves something to be desired. I’m a firm believer that you should love the landscape outside the windows you pass by frequently, and I think it’s finally time to do something about this area.


First of all, the three flagpoles. Not only are they a pain for my husband to mow around, but we don’t even use them. And, in my opinion, they’re a bit of an eyesore.

Second, the evergreen shrub hedge. I don’t like it, and it’s annoying to walk all the way around it if you’re trying to access the field beyond — you can’t really see it in this picture, but the bed the hedge is in extends about another 30 feet to the right and is planted with trees and other shrubs (in fact, it’s where I discovered my mystery rose last summer). All in all, it’s really inconvenient. There should be some sort of a path or a gate through the middle, right?

Third, I love roses and there is nary a rose in sight!

So, I’ve schemed and confided and thought long and hard, and I’ve decided that the major projects for this spring and summer will be as follows:

  • Turning the unused flagpoles into a climbing trellis — we’ve mulched around the base of the poles (cardboard + wood chips) and will attach some cattle panels. I’ve purchased some climbing roses that will (hopefully) do a good job filling in the space, while also creating a bit of a privacy screen from the road. One one the roses I picked out is supposed to climb 10 to 20 feet, so I have high hopes!
  • Removing the evergreen shrubs and planting the space with hedging shrub roses. (I’m very aware how much work this will be, but I’m committed — I hate those evergreen shrubs so much.) I know it looks like a shady spot in this picture, but it was taken in the evening — the hedge gets full sun most of the day — perfect for roses!
  • Building an arbor for easier access to the field from the front yard — this will go in the middle of the rose hedge (before the roses are planted), and will have something climbing draped over it — possibly another rose, or some clematis, or both!

It will take a LOT of work, patience, and some additional time for the plants to fill in, but it will definitely be worth it — I can already picture it in my mind.

I’ve already bought the cattle panels for the climbing rose trellis and will be hitting the ground running this weekend, so wish me luck!

Winter Sowing Success!

Winter sowing in zone 8b

Yesterday was a beautiful day with a high of 55 degrees, and when I got home from work I thought I’d take a peek inside my winter-sown containers to see if I could spot any signs of life.

I’m beyond thrilled to report that I’ve got seedlings in not one but three containers! The megaton cabbage, kale, and poppies have all germinated. Hooray!

Here’s a picture of the cabbage seedlings — they’re the still pretty small, but I have high hopes for them. (They’re supposed to be giant cabbages, after all!)  I won’t show you pictures of the other two containers that germinated, because the seedlings are so small that the picture is mostly dirt unless you look reeeeeally hard at it.

Winter sown megaton cabbage seedlings

I’m not surprised at all that the cabbage and kale are some of the first things to sprout — they’re cold-hardy plants, so it makes sense. Fingers crossed the peas and Swiss chard are next!

It’s only supposed to get warmer over the next week, so I’m looking forward to monitoring the containers and seeing if anything else germinates and how much the current seedlings will grow. We’re not getting as much rain as we were last month, so I might have to moisten the soil a little bit, but that’s no biggie.

If you’re winter sowing too, have you had anything germinate yet? I’d love to know what you’re growing!

Winter Sown Update #5

Winter sowing setup

Hello there, everyone! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve popped over here to say hello and give an update on my winter sowing project.

Truth be told, over the last two weeks I didn’t do any winter sowing — life got a little busy. I wasn’t idle, however — I started all my peppers and tomatoes indoors during that time. The tomatoes (16 varieties, I might have gone a little overboard…) have all germinated, and I can’t tell you how happy those perky little seedlings in the windowsill make me. I love brushing my hands along the tops and smelling their tangy tomato scent. Yum. I cannot wait.

Winter sowing flowers

With the official start of spring only a week and some spare change away, I figured I’d better better buckle down and finish my last large push of winter sowing while the weather is still on the colder side. I focused on perennials and cold-hardy plants this time around: foxgloves, more sweet peas, pansies, more Swiss chard, more kale (you can never have too much kale!), and broccoli. I also started a large batch of snap peas the next day, but alas I forgot to take any pictures. (I promise it wasn’t too interesting.)

Winter sowing cold-hardy plants
I love using these salad containers for winter sowing.

The reason I sowed more varieties of a few things I’d already started is because, to put it simply, I went to the Portland Nursery with a gift card and was wooed by the isles and isles of seeds. (I also got a couple roses there, but I’ll talk about that more in the future.)

Spoils of the Portland Nursery — roses and seeds!

Since our average last frost date is April 30, I’ll be starting to sow my annuals toward the end of this month — I’ve got loads of cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, etc. to get started. Not to mention squashes, gourds, beans, cucumbers, and herbs! I’ll be using the winter sowing method still, even though it doesn’t feel appropriate to call it “winter sowing” when it’ll officially be spring by then.

I’m starting to see pictures on the Winter Sowers Facebook group of successfully germinated seeds, and it’s getting me really excited — I’m impatiently awaiting the day when I peek into one of my many winter-sown containers on our deck and see happy little green sprouts inside!

The back porch now holds a whopping 27 winter-sown containers — and there’s still more to come! Our neighbors are probably curious about all the “trash” on our porch. I’m sure they’ll be surprised when the weather warms up and I open up the containers to reveal plants growing inside.

What are you growing this year? Are you starting seeds yet, or is it still too early in your area?

Happy sowing!