Google Reader going…what to do?

When I first learned about Google Reader from Loree I was thrilled. No longer would I waste time popping by sites I had bookmarked to see if they had posted anything new. I was never a big fan of the service: in the short time I’ve been using it, it has cut out on me, losing all of my data, at least three times that I can remember. Now it has announced that it will be shutting down in July. I figure “Why wait?”

A site called lifehacker did a lot of the groundwork with a survey of alternatives. The most attractive choice to me was Feedly, but I was not alone. When I tried to access it, I ran out of patience before it managed to fully load. The next best thing, as far as I could tell, was The Old Reader. I signed in via Facebook with no problem. The protocol for adding sites is nearly identical to Google’s…in fact, the reason it was developed was that the original version of GR was much preferred by these developers after Google insisted upon “improving things”. We all know how that goes. Well, I was bombing right along: culling through bookmarks and adding my favorite blogs, when everything froze up on me. I haven’t exactly given up. I’ll give it a rest and try again later. But I am left unable to make any recommendations. How about you? Have you moved on to something that works like a charm?

While we’re at it, I have a couple of other technical glitches that have been bugging me lately. All of a sudden, certain words as I type away get turned into links with no help from me. Anybody know what’s up with that? And the ADS! I never had too much trouble ignoring them before, but now they seem to pop up, filled with wiggly attention-getters, at the top of every page and no way to turn them off. Don’t get me started on the buxom beauties in various stages of undress that appear, unbidden, on my timeline and elsewhere. I’m pretty tolerant, thinking “OK, everybody’s got to try to make a living”, but these things are driving me crazy-nutso! Your thoughts?

a new toy

I like my little Panasonic point and shoot camera, but it does have its drawbacks. When R came home with a new camera I was about equal parts excited and intimidated. It’s a Nikon D3100, which puts it right on the edge of having more capabilities than we could ever learn to use. The main thing that I wanted in a new camera was a viewfinder. I found it nearly impossible to control the framing of a shot without one. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it will do, but remember how I was bemoaning my inability to capture the texture of the Kalanchloe belhariensis?

Kalankhloe belhariensis close-up

Well, I think this just about does it.

old callicarpa

And when I took this shot of the Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ berries in front of the red foliage of the Nandina the colors left something to be desired.

new callicarpa

Now I can focus on the berries and let the flaming leaves act as background. This is going to be fun! The old camera will still be tucked into purse or pocket for those times when I want to snap photos unobtrusively, but I am looking forward to experimenting with this new tool. I’ll let you in on new discoveries as they arise.

Joy Creek dry gardening seminar

On the second day, Hortlandia lost out to Maurice Horn’s presentation. Most Sundays, Joy Creek Nursery offers a seminar. This one held special interest for me, as I have been trying to phase out the need to drag hoses about during the dry summer months.

Joy Creek seminar tent

The canopy protects the audience from rainfall, or, in this case (wonder of wonders), sunshine.

dry garden plants

A table plus a cart were loaded with plants to illustrate points being made.

handouts on clip boards

These guys seemingly think of everything: handouts come on individual clipboards, complete with a sharpened pencil for note-taking. I, for one, was scribbling furiously. Maurice has been pressed into service to deal with some staggering planting problems, and he used them to walk us through a process that will end in success under almost any circumstances. The formula, in a nutshell: use a mixture of 1/4″ ten gravel mixed with organic material for planting; mulch with more of the same gravel. Mulching with gravel allows bringing the mulch right up to the plant, where organic mulches will cause rot if there isn’t breathing room. I had been using pea gravel because I like the look, but I am now convinced that the 1/4″ ten is superior in every way. Where pea gravel tends to roll and gets kicked around, this stuff stays put. Just make sure you get the washed kind so that sediment does not rise to the surface and form a crust.

Cistus ‘Blanche’

I arrived early to stroll through the display gardens, and even had time to latch on to this Cistus ‘Blanche’.

more Cistus ‘Blanche’

It is marginally hearty here, so it is going in a pot with Heuchera ‘Caramel’ at its feet. I love those wavy leaves and the coloration of leaf and stem. The blooms will be white, so I can live with those, too.

Artemesia versicolor

We dove for the demonstration plants (politely, of course) and I came up with Artemesia versicolor, which has been on my list for some time.

Zauschneria garetti

Zauschneria garetti is supposed to form a mat through which early bulbs will grow and then produce red-orange flowers of its own later on. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Eryngium borgattii

Continuing my love affair with Eryngiums, this one is borgattii.

Ceanothus gloriosys ‘Heart’s Desire’

Sprawling forms of Ceanothus sound like the perfect ground cover for the evergreen border, so I am giving C. gloriosus ‘Heart’s Desire’ a try.

Sedum ‘Stardust’

Everything the least bit fleshy that goes into my dry berm seems to get nibbled. I must figure out a way to protect Sedum ‘Stardust’, because that is the perfect spot for it, and I will cry if it meets the same fate as the poor Opuntia. Any ideas?

The best and most mature of Horn’s dry gardens is the Reed College Hell Strip. To see another of his efforts and get in on the early stages of a demanding project, go to the rest stop on the west side of I-5 near Aurora. Now I must be off to procure me some gravel.

keeping track

It took me a long time to come up with a system that works for me. For the longest time, I just planted willy nilly, with no concern for names of plants, their locations or performance. Then I joined HPSO and the focus shifted. My first attempt at following what was happening in the garden was to make notations on one of those big calendars with lots of room for each day. It soon became obvious that knowing the year-to-year shifts would be nice. By changing the color of the ink in the marker, the calendar could be stretched to cover about three years. That seemed like a lot at the time. Silly me. Hadn’t I noticed that once the gardening bug bit one soon began thinking in decades?

card & picture file

Those were the days before digital cameras, so I had already started a file for prints from the point and shoot, organized by year. In front of that, I placed alphabetized index cards where a card with pertinent info on each new plant purchased could find a home. It soon became apparent that some names were (for me) impossible to remember, so at the front of each lettered index card goes a list of common names with the Latin equivalent. All plant cards are filed under botanical names. When a plant turns up its toes, its card gets pulled and transferred to the dead plant section, with comments on what did it in. I also have extra lists of trees, grasses, succulents, ground covers and anything else that becomes an obvious category. If something was ordered from a catalog, the picture goes on the card. I also cannibalize catalogs for pictures of plants purchased elsewhere. Since the digital camera has taken over, the picture file has thinned out, but I still keep a yearly file and throw all my receipts, etc. in there.

hanging files

The problem of tracking changes from year to year remained unsolved, until the hanging files came along. The green files in front are filed by categories. Magazine articles or newspaper clippings on subjects of interest can go in there. Have you ever tried to go through old magazines to refind an article? Any luck? Me neither. The “plant” file has alphabetized sub-folders. The next bank of files, the yellow ones, are sorted by month. Wandering around the garden (an almost daily event) a clipboard intermittently comes along, to make note of when things bloom, conditions in the garden, etc. I include lists of plants purchased or moved and where they are located. Most of the time, everything that happens in the garden in the span of one month fits on a single sheet of notebook paper. I find it both satisfying and informative to pull out the pertinent file at the beginning of each month to compare notes from years past. This year I failed to follow this plan, depending on computer files from Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-up to provide the data. I guess I am just a paper person. Wonderful as those two events are, they just do not give me the scope of information I seek. From now on I will go back to the methods outlined here and enjoy the new-fangled stuff for the visual feast that it is.

How about you? Do you have a system? A journal? What works for you?

learning curve

If you look back at the last post, you will notice that the type no longer bumps up against the photo, as it did in all previous posts. Who would have thought that it would take 14 weeks and 28 lessons to learn how to make that happen? Ah, the joys of continuing education.

another baby step

…inthe march to perfection? Probably not, but at least the comment section is now working. I will worry about what it looks like at some later date, when my blood pressure subsides to a point where I think that it can stand another foray into the dark inner workings of the technical world. Thanks for hanging in there with me.