Wednesday, January 30, 2008

At the movies

Two recent films that I enthusiastically recommend:

Cloverfield - After reading some reviews that compared this to "The Blair Witch Project" (a film that I hated), I decided to skip this one. When a friend invited me to go see it with him, I changed my mind. The film turned out to be a pleasant surprise although I have to confess that I got a bit nauseous and had a slight headache afterward. It has to be the shakiest of films utilizing the "shaky camera" technique.

We are told at the beginning that we are watching video footage found at Cloverfield (formally Central Park). A group of college kids are attending a going-way party for the lead character, Rob, who has accepted a job in Japan. In the middle of the party, Manhattan is attacked by a large Godzilla-like creature (which resembles either a squid or a dinosaur depending on which scene you are watching).

As thousands attempt to flee via the Brooklyn Bridge, Rob and four others unwisely head back into Manhattan to rescue his girlfriend, who is stranded on the upper floor of her apartment building. What follows is a fast and suspenseful journey through the subways and streets of ravaged Manhattan. Watching the film, you can't help but think about 9-11, but the monster aspect assures us that this is all fantasy. I found the film riveting and was glad I went. If you like this sort of thing, go see it!

And, for something completely different, available on dvd is La Vie En Rose, a biographical film about Edith Piaf, the legendary French chanteuse whose life was a rollercoaster ride of exhilarating highs and incredibly depressing lows. With the awards season upon us (that is, if the writer's strike is ever resolved), you can expect to hear the name Marion Cotillard. She is the young actress whose performance is nothing short of phenomenal. Cotillard captures every nuance of Piaf's being, both psychically and emotionally. Movies rarely make me cry, this one did.

Gifts for a gardener

My birthday was last week and I received some nifty gardening related gifts. Michael's aunt, cousin and a good friend pitched in and got me this wagon - I guess that is what you call it - and I was excited to get it. My wheelbarrow is on its last leg and I'm sure this little guy is much stronger - they say it will hold 1500 pounds!

I had hinted to Michael that I needed a new pair of lopers and he went beyond the call of duty and gave me these which feature an extension - you rotate the knobs and it will extend a foot or so. I had never seen any made like this and I'm sure they will come in handy when I resume the pruning of Rambling Rector.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's snowing!

A rare event in my neck of the woods and we all go nuts. It started around 2pm and was still coming down at 5pm. Most of it is melting though. I managed to take a few shots when I got home from work before it got too dark. You can't see it falling in the photos - how do you photograph falling snow?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ready to burst into bloom

I'm fascinated by winter blooms. Over the past years, I've learned that gardening in the south is really a year-long event and everything doesn't necessarily close up shop in winter. Why did it take so long for me to notice this?

I've always loved camellias and have a lot of them in my garden but I'm still discovering other winter interest plants as well. The above photo is Daphne Odora which I bought on a whim at Home Depot two years ago. After I got it home, I looked it up in my books and did some research on the Internet (I always purchase the plants first and then worry about where it will go later) and read that it wasn't an easy plant to grow. Now wouldn't you know it has performed admirably in a location where a lot of other plants have died? This is an area behind my garage filled with hackberry trees and very dry soil. I'm still having a hard time deciding what to do with this area. I wanted a native woodland garden but the dry conditions are presenting difficulties to say the least. The daphne, however, gave me a few blooms last winter and look at it this week! It seems to be thriving in this area where I've lost numerous azaleas and camellias so I'm going to leave it just where it is.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Plumbing update

Back in November, I was discussing our plumbing woes and thought I'd post an update. In a nutshell, our entire sewer line is being replaced because of old clay pipes that are being clogged with roots. We found a plumber who agreed to hand dig the line to avoid disrupting the landscape and he even came up with a different option that none of the other plumbers had mentioned. He suggested placing a pump in our basement and installing a new line that would only be 2 feet below the ground surface as opposed to 7 or 8 like the old one. (We were told that the "pipe bursting" technique, which I had high hopes for, wouldn't work for us because the lines had to be within 15 years old and laying on a gravel bed - whatever!)

The work started the week before Christmas and is still not completed, mainly due to rainy weather (I'm not going to complain about that!). Our estimate was 5 days work but in all honesty, the work hasn't bothered us that much. In fact, we (so far) have been pleased. The plumbers were very careful hand digging the trench which runs from our basement through a heavily landscaped area outside. A few rhododendron limbs was the only damage I saw.

This week though, things are looking a bit messy. Once they reached the driveway area in front of our garage and guesthouse (which serves as Christmas tree storage space) a backhoe was used and I was a bit shocked when I saw the outcome. Several limbs on the dogwood were broken off and everything in a planting bed in front of the porch was dug up. This included a huge hydrangea. I saw it sitting to the side while I was home for lunch and thought that it could easily be replanted. However, that evening, I was surveying the damage and I can't find it! I'm assuming that it is buried underneath that pile of dirt but I haven't seen the plumber to ask him about it. More rain yesterday so another delay. I'm not going to complain about anything yet though. I already have ideas for a new planting area in front of that porch. It was looking bad anyway. :)