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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Get Lit In Your Yard

I do love to walk around in my yard during the evening hours after the tools have been put away, dirty clothes thrown in the washer and a run through the shower. Sometimes the grill will be going which gives Mimi and I some time to look around at what we got done that day or what needs to be done. On those walks one of us will have a camera so we can add one more picture to our thousands of our yard in our iPhotos. I keep thinking one day I'm going to get that photo good enough to send to National Geographic, No luck yet.

I started collecting National Geographics when I was young. They are easy to find at flea markets and inexpensive. I've also been a subscriber since the 80s. It’s a great way to see places you might be traveling to or discover new things. My collection of the bright yellow magazine goes back to the 1930s. I even got lucky enough to find the first issue they did on Jane Goodall when she was a teenager. That one is my pride and joy. Mimi hasn't minded my collecting them because from her design standpoint the yellow binders look great when used on the right shelves, although now that I think about it they're all upstairs neatly displayed where no one can see them, foiled again.

While we take our evening walks, other than the camera, we will have a container of Amdro to sprinkle on any of the fire ant mounds we come across. I can't think of one good thing about fire ants. They have made me curse more than anything. They can ruin a kid’s birthday party in a matter of seconds. They get in my boots and up my pants to sting me over and over for no apparent reason other than to just be mean. I have no patience for fire ants. I use Amdro because it works. It is a bait that the workers bring back to the mound and to the queen as the grand prize, I guess these worker ants are the suck ups and get some kind of special treatment from the queen. Once the queen has taken the bait she dies. When the queen dies the whole mound dies. They no longer have anything to live for. This process happens pretty much overnight, that's why I use Amdro. I've often had ants sneak into my boots and up my pant leg before I know it. It seems like the leader ant counts to three and they all bite at the same time causing me to do a hilarious glove slapping, stripping down, cussing bluegrass jig.

Another reason to be mean to ants is that they farm aphids. You will often notice more mounds near crape myrtles and other plants that attract aphids. Aphids excrete a honey dew that is very sugary - ants love sugar. I have watched armies of ants marching up and down aphid covered trees. They're going to get aphid eggs and bringing them to the mound where they nurture the young aphids until they can be carried back up the trees so they can produce more ant treats high in sugar. Ants and aphids work in a symbiotic relationship, that's why if you get rid of your ants you'll break the cycle of the aphids.

Usually our walks lead us to either our hammock area or back to our thinking swings. The swings are suspended from a giant arbor covered in evergreen wisteria. The arbor area provides a view of the entire backyard. In the swings we have vowed to never talk about Garden Works stuff, no business talk. We have speakers set up throughout the backyard so our favorite tunes are playing while we swing and chat about sour parents, our kids, how blessed we feel, or plants that should be added to the yard. On our luckiest evenings we will be in the swings when our night lights come on. The lights are controlled by a timer to come on just before dark and then go off at 11 p.m., once we’ve gone to sleep. They come back on an hour before daylight so I can see them while drinking my morning coffee.

When the lights come on it's like we are in an entirely different yard. All the things that need to be done go away. The view when lit up is absolutely stunning. We’ve played around with lighting over the years discovering some trees look better with lights on them than others. Plants that have been tree formed and have relatively low branching offer the most artistic and stunning show in the summer and winter, with leaves and without. I leave plenty of extra wire for each light to be moved around during certain times of the year when one trunk may work better than another.

The trees working best for us are Coral Bark Maples with their red branches in the winter. Service Berries for their shape, Vitex with great branching, and Bloodgood Maples aluminate year-round. On a pitch dark night these uplit trees are each a stunning art study, hardly noticeable during daylight hours. The lights offer more depth to the view from the house on the other side of the pond. I've run lights deep into the woods, but close enough to the pond so we get a double reflection, one right side up and one upside down. It is stunning and to be honest my favorite time to view the yard.

I now think back to before we had lighting and realize we were missing 50 percent of yard viewing time. I'm convinced all the lights away from the house attract nighttime insects, mosquitoes mainly, away from the house.

The whole light thing started the first time I climbed Mount Rainier. I was away for a week or so. To surprise me for Father’s Day, Mimi had a great lighting guy come in and light all the live oaks lining our driveway along with the giant oaks in the backyard. It opened up an entire new world for us. I asked how many lights I could add without being too much of a load to the system. The lighting guy said to keep adding until it's too much for the system. I have added at least 15 lights to the original system without any problems so far.

One year I found colored lenses for the lights on Amazon. For Christmas I thought it might be cool to put red, green, blue or amber lenses on everything. It really didn't work, it just made the lights look dimmer with the slightly red hue. Adding lighting to our yard was one investment that has been so worth it. Night time is the time most people are home, yet when the day turns to night without them the yard basically doesn't exist visually. It's a way to enjoy your yard and spend time with your favorite person or pet just relaxing. The little problems that catch your eye during the day like weeds, ant beds and unpruned plants go away.

At Garden Works my landscape company now offers lighting, irrigation, drainage, landscaping. We have built quite a few outdoor kitchens, swinging areas, swimming pools and we are now beginning to build vegetable gardens for clients.

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