Thursday, April 28, 2005

Champion of the Yard

I am the champion, my friends.
'Though the yews kept on fighting, 'til the end.

I have conquered the yews. I began removing yew #3 on Monday, and finished the job early yesterday evening. I then took a look at the remaining yew (to the right), judged that I still had a few hours of daylight left, and ripped that sucker out of the ground in record time. Although it looks like the smallest of the bushes, it possessed the most heinous roots of the bunch. It had two lateral roots, about 8 inches under the ground, that were as thick as my bulging upper arm. I had to call in the big guns (Mike) for one of them.

As I was snapping the last little root that held the plant in the ground, one of my neighbors walked by with his dog. He saw me grunting and pushing and swearing and, instead of offering to help, commented that I was the neighborhood’s “Martha Stewart.” I don't see the resemblance, but perhaps she’s a bit leaner and meaner now that she’s spent some time in the big house.

After wrestling with the yews, I still had the energy to remove the last of the henbit from the right bed and do some planting in the left bed. I relocated the gladiolas from between yews #3 and #4 to a nice spot underneath a window. I planted my still very small butterfly bush in the center of the right bed. (It is supposed to grow to 5 feet tall and wide.)

My perennial seedlings aren’t quite ready to go in the ground, but I’ve decided that the ground isn’t ready for them either. During the yew removal, I grew to hate the clay, gummy soil. Despite the yews' vigor, the ground is rather inhospitable to plant life. I am going to amend the soil to give my seedlings a better start. I still have to research what exactly I should mix into the clay to get good garden soil.

We’re in for a long bout of rain, until Sunday. I feel like I deserve a break now that I have demonstrated, without a doubt, that I am the champion of the yard.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Garden Addict - follow-up pictures

Hooray for rain! Instead of gardening, I bought a digital camera. I took these pictures in a drizzle, but they still came out beautifully.

I built the semi-circular raised beds and planted them with climbing hydrangea and violets. The plants in front of the beds are a mystery. They look purposefully planted, so I assume they are not weeds. I transplanted the group on the right from the construction zone on the left.

Here are two views of the shade garden I'm planting in place of the dead yew. I am still auditioning the plant arrangement.
The rhododendrons don't look half bad in the rain.

This bed is in the corner of the driveway and the walk around the garage. All I've done to it is add the daylillies in the center (Stella D'Oro from freecycle), the clematis climbing the pole (both from the raised bed construction zone), and the pretty pine mulch. I've planted portulaca, an annual, in the pot. I can't wait until the other plants bloom so that I can identify them.

Now that I have a camera, get ready for a fully illustrated blog!

Garden Addict

I’ve been consumed, swallowed whole, by my garden and I couldn’t be happier. I think about it constantly. At night, I have trouble clearing planting plans from my mind so that I can sleep. There is always dirt under my nails and ground into my cuticles. My hands are rough and catch on my clothing. Everything hurts, my arms, my back, my butt, but I don’t mind. If I could have my way, I’d spend all my time digging in the dirt.

This is my typical day: I spend eight dreary hours at work, staring longingly out the window and haunting the GardenWeb forums. As I ride the bus home, my anticipation builds. I shovel dinner down my throat and, sometimes, politely wait for Mike to finish. Then I throw on my grubby clothes and rush outside with my gardening cat, Cleo. I dig, weed, chop, plant, water, and generally fuss about until darkness forces Cleo and me inside. I change into my pajamas and spend an hour writing in my garden journal, perusing my Ohio gardening book, or tending to houseplants before I go to bed. I dream gardening dreams.

Imagine my disappointment when it SNOWED this weekend. My routine was completely disrupted. I had to ease my cabin fever with endless gazing at the tender seedlings I had brought inside and the exploration of a new greenhouse. By late Sunday afternoon, the snow was gone, but the temperatures were still low. However, the moment the sun peeked out, I was outside again, engaging in the warming activity of yew destruction (#3).

I’m an addict; I’ll do anything for a fix. I’ve already learned not to go into a greenhouse unless I’m prepared to buy something. I have no will power. Mike has graciously forgiven me for spending large amounts of our tax refund on the yard. My justification: it makes me happy!

I have made significant progress since I began work on the foundation plantings. The raised beds around the ends of the front porch are completed and planted with climbing hydrangea and dooryard violets. To the right of the front door, the dead yew has been removed and the horehound from half the bed has been torn out. Last night, I installed a birdbath in the yew’s place. I have three lady in red ferns, a purple palace coral bells (heuchera), a bleeding heart, a shooting star, and ten lily of the valley pips waiting to be planted around the bath. I’m sprouting an elephant ear bulb inside to plant in this shady area by early summer (it is a tropical bulb that needs to be stored indoors for the winter). To the left of the front door, Mike and I ripped out one yew and are busy on the second. I discovered gladiolas emerging from the ground near the second yew. In order to save them from destruction, I dug up the bulbs and have temporarily stored them in the garage. The progress is slow and the work is hard, but it is a labor of love.

Cocooned in my garden obsession, I haven’t even bugged Mike to go shopping for the digital camera he promised me. We are in for some rainy weather this week (but no snow!), so I may be able to tear myself away from the lovely dirt and finally purchase the camera. Then I can share the destruction, the construction, and the joy with you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I Done Broke the Pick-Ax

Kazzy-mira took a pick-ax,
And gave that damned yew forty whacks.

That is, until she broke it. The pick-ax, that is.

Yes, once again, I apparently don’t know my own strength. I’ve torn apart soldering trying to plumb the dishwasher, bent an iron bar prying the first yew out, and busted the pick-ax grubbing at the second yew’s roots. The worst part is, both the iron bar and pick-ax belong to neighbor Tim. He’s already forgiven me for the bar, but doesn’t know about the pick-ax yet.

The ax handle broke at the head as I was prying at a root. Theoretically, I can buy a new handle, pop the old piece out, insert the replacement, and soak it in a bucket of water until the wood swells and secures the ax head. In the meantime, I’m a little uneasy about using a regular ax on the roots. Axes aren’t meant for the dirt; pick-axes are.

I was quite saddened when the pick-ax broke. I was successfully venting my day’s frustrations by hacking the yew to pieces. I was also entertaining three of my neighbors. They were gawking from their front yard, across the street. Alas, the show ended prematurely. I had to continue my therapy by ripping out black horehound instead. I soon lost my audience.

I guess I’ll be trying to break Tim’s regular ax tomorrow evening. Should I charge admission?

When she saw what she had done,
She grabbed an ax, and gave it forty-one.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Yews Must Die

I’ve got one yew out of the ground and three left to go. The first yew (to the right of the doorway), was 90% dead. It obviously needed to be removed. The other three bushes are healthy, so why would I want to remove a perfectly good plant?

Perhaps it was an overdose of evergreens as I was growing up, but I think the yews are ugly. In fact, I think all of the ubiquitous, evergreen shrubs planted along foundations are unattractive. Whether they are well-kept gumdrops or neglected monsters, I want to rip them out. There has to be a better idea for foundation plantings.

Since moving into our home in October, I’ve been studying the houses I pass on the bus each day, searching for foundation planting ideas. Most of the houses have the hideous evergreen shrubs I despise. I’ve found no inspiration. A few houses had deciduous shrubs planted outside, but, because it was winter, the plants looked pathetic and the houses naked. I delayed decision until spring.

The first thing I needed was confirmation that taking well-established, healthy (except for one) yews out of our front bed was not some sort of landscape crime. I found support from my fellow GardenWeb members for “yanking the evergreens” at the Landscape Design forum. Browsing the internet, I learned that evergreens are traditionally planted to make new houses look “finished” and to provide winter interest. Frankly, though, most people don’t give a hoot about how interesting their yard is in the winter. I certainly didn’t pause at my yews in December and think, “My, how interesting my foundation planting looks!” Instead, I looked at them and thought, “How boring! They look exactly the same all year long.” Then I hurried inside, out of the cold. Clearly, the yews must go.

If I don’t want needled evergreens, then my choices are limited. One option is broad-leaf “evergreens,” such as rhododendrons and holly. We’ve got plenty of both. I’d like a little variety and some FLOWERS (besides rhodie flowers). I'm left with choosing among deciduous shrubs and perennials that die to the ground at the end of each season. Therefore, my garden is going to be bare earth and dead stalks in the winter, but I am willing to sacrifice winter interest for summer blooms.

The current plan for the foundation planting is as follows.
1. Remove the yews! 25% complete.
2. Build semi-circular raised beds around the corners of the porch for climbing hydrangeas. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the footer extends too far out to plant the hydrangeas in the ground. I’ve got the right bed built, but I’m living with it to see how I like it before duplicating it on the other side. 40% complete.
3. Plant butterfly bush in the center of the left bed, between the windows. 50% complete (I bought the plant!)
4. Plant Carolina Jasmine Margarita (hardy to zone 6!) to grow on trellis at the left side of the left bed. 50% complete (ordered the plant and installed the trellis).
5. Buy and plant a rhododendron to replace the dead yew to the right of the entryway. Although I’m not a rhododendron fan, it will match the other two rhodies planted there. 0% complete.
6. Rip out black horehound that has overtaken the right bed. 5% complete.
7. Plant perennials in the vacant spaces. Shade lovers go to the right and sun lovers to the left. 5% complete (seedlings growing).
8. Mulch! 0% complete.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sparkly Ceiling

My grandma’s dining room ceiling had glitter in it. I was entranced with it. I’d stare up at the ceiling and move my head from side to side to see the light winking off the tiny mirrors. I half believed that the glitter was actually diamond dust. The ceiling made that room regal.

Today I read a blog post (I’ve already forgotten where) bemoaning sparkly popcorn ceilings. Recalling how my grandmother’s ceiling enchanted me, I did a google search. Apparently this type of ceiling is a textured, spray-on application. It sounds as if there are two sizes of texture: cottage cheese and popcorn. Just the words “cottage cheese ceiling” sicken me. I picture a quivering, cellulite ceiling. “Popcorn ceiling” sounds delicious, but must be quite unsightly with the shadows cast by the kernels. I don’t recall any lumps at all, but my grandmother must have had the cottage cheese type.

Despite its glittery magic, it looks as if the textured ceiling is history. I haven’t got it in my house, but those that do try to remove it. Removal, though, can be hazardous because many of these ceilings contain nasty asbestos. My vote is for letting it stay and allowing it to captivate future generations of grandchildren. Just tell anyone that derides its lumpy texture that the ceiling is coated in diamond dust.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Lessons from the Trail

I graduated with my undergraduate degree in December, 1997. I immediately applied for a number of positions with the US Forest Service. I accepted the first offer I got: building and maintaining trails in the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest. I worked from snow melt to snow fall, May to October. Those were the most physically demanding six months of my life. We hiked five to eleven miles to our work site and camped there for ten days at a stretch. Our food (ten coolers for ten people) and tools were carried in by horses and mules, but we carried our personal items on our backs. I began with no experience with a tool larger than a hammer and no experience performing outdoor labor. Most of our work took us far above sea level. The learning and conditioning curve was steep. The skills I gained that summer have proved useful as I’ve begun to landscape our yard.

The most valuable lesson from the trail was that of patience. The tasks were tedious and repetitious, but I learned to pace myself and take joy in the simple activities. I might spend an entire day scouting for and carrying large rocks to be used in walls. Or filling buckets with gravel and carrying them a few hundred feet. Or sawing logs (by hand – no power tools allowed) that had fallen across the trail. Or moving one 200+ lb rock 50 feet with a large iron bar. With no where else to go and nothing to do but the work in front of me, I calmly concentrated on each task amidst the stunning beauty of the Sierra Nevadas.

The patience I developed has come in handy while crawling about the front yard, picking up spruce cones. Or digging a hole to plant a tree. Or simply nursing seedlings along. No matter how laborious the activity, I effortlessly lose myself in the task at hand, sunshine, and fresh air.

On trail crew, I did a lot of things or the first time. I had never pruned bushes, dug a hole, or used a saw. Those things required little skill and I quickly mastered them. The most difficult task I learned to perform was to properly swing a pickax. Initially, I just grabbed the tool like a baseball bat, raised the head to about waist-high, and hacked away. My technique was neither effective nor good for my lower back. Eventually, I learned the secret. My left hand grasped the shaft near its base and my right hand was positioned halfway up. I raised the tool high, with the business end over my head and a bit behind me. As I swung the axe down in a smooth arc, my right hand slid down the haft to meet my left and I bent my knees. The trick is to let gravity do the work, with a bit of oomph from the arms. Squatting saves the lower back from the trauma of repeatedly bending over and further accelerates the axe head. Getting the head to hit exactly where I wanted took a few swings, but the satisfying crunch as I tore into a thick, woody root was worth a few misses. There is a poetry to the rhythmic swing of the pickax and the punctuating thump as it nails its target.

Last night, in sneakers and a skirt, I rediscovered that poem in my front yard. I doubt that neighbor Tim, when he lent me the pickax, thought that (1) I’d be using it or (2) I’d know how to use it. Granted, my swings were abbreviated a bit by the proximity of the house (and a window!), but I used that thing like I meant business. I hacked away at the roots of the yew to the right of the front door, intent on removing it from the bed. Finally, the sky began to darken and my sockless heels to blister. I didn’t push it. I am confident that I will outlast the yew. I will chew away at it, bit by bit, until it’s gone. Then I have three more to eliminate.

Although a job consisting of hard physical labor seemed incongruous after just obtaining my B.S., it has proven to be one of the most satisfying and useful experiences I’ve had. Surrounded by ragged peaks, breathing the butterscotch-scented air of Jeffrey Pines, and bathing in alpine sunshine, I grew both physically and mentally. Whenever I’m confronted with a physically difficult task, I just remind myself that I, literally, used to dig ditches for a living. After that, everything else is cake and pie.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Poor Follow-up

I’m not sure how contractors make any money. As a group, they have rotten follow-up skills.

Back in February, I had worked myself up into a frenzy over the muddy backyard. I was convinced I needed professional help and called five landscapers. I left five messages. No one ever called me back. Eventually, my ardor cooled and I lost interest in the project. If just one of the landscapers had called me back and stoked my fire, he could have made beaucoup de bucks. Instead, I’ve moved on.

This month, I noticed that the Norway spruces in front of our house needed to have their lower limbs lopped off. Although the bases of the lowest branches are far above my head, the ends droop low enough to whack an adult walking beneath them. I called two tree services and left two messages. I was heartily impressed when one called me back, asked for my address, and promised to drive by to look at them that evening. I haven’t heard from him since. Mike and I risked death, but saved ourselves money by spending this past Saturday trimming them ourselves (with a little help from neighbor Tim). Again, the contractor missed out on a job.

Unless homeowners are chasing these guys down, how in the world are the landscape/tree service contractors staying in business? Are the plumbers, electricians, framers, drywallers, etc. as bad at follow-up? The poor customer service just gives me one more reason to be a do-it-yourselfer.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Yard Sale Season

Ahhh…Spring, the return of flowers, birds, and garage sales! I’ve spent the winter eagerly awaiting the first yard sales of the season. Last weekend, I ventured out.

With all due respect, estate sales are the best places to shop. On a Saturday morning, I hit one estate sale and two small garage sales. Fifteen dollars and one hour later, I had:
1. A handtruck (already came in handy for the dishwasher!)
2. A hoe
3. A cultivator
4. An electric weedwhacker
5. 3 packages of white, wire garden border
6. A compost sifter
7. A flower pot
8. A hose nozzle
9. A ball peen hammer
10. 37 6-inch pieces of blue tile trim (hoping to use on the kitchen counter)

I’m ready for this weekend’s round of sales and the opportunity to pick up some more yard tools. The prices are so much better than Home Depot’s and leave me with cash for plants!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New-To-Us Dishwasher

Our house came with a mustard yellow dishwasher, to match the mustard yellow stove. I dated the stove at circa 1967, but the dishwasher’s age is still a mystery. I guess it’s from the ‘70s. Amazingly, it still runs, but the dishes don’t get clean. I bought a new-to-us dishwasher from a co-worker in December. It sat in the garage, and we washed dishes by hand, until this weekend.

Being obsessive compulsive, I usually put myself in charge of our home improvement projects. This time, I took a big step toward overcoming my OCD and let Mike be the boss. We have different styles. When I tackle a project, I spend a lot of time on preparation. I usually spend a week or more researching the subject. Once I find a good set of instructions, I read them repeatedly, and then follow them, to the letter. Mike, on the other hand, has more of a “try and let’s see” approach. It’s very bold, but likely to send me into a fit. However, I resolved to put aside our procedural differences and do it Mike’s way.

Mike found a website detailing how to remove and install a dishwasher, scanned the directions (or so I assumed), and announced that we’d be done in 90 minutes. We wheeled the new dishwasher around to the back porch and into the kitchen. I turned off the breakers and Mike turned off the water. Mike found the screws securing the old dishwasher into the cabinetry and removed them. Then, we started pulling.

We pulled and pulled and pulled and the dishwasher wouldn’t budge. The problem appeared to be that we were catching the bottom of the dishwasher on the linoleum lip. Because the top of the dishwasher was so close to the underside of the counter, we had no room to lift it up and get it over the edge of the linoleum. Inspecting the underside of the dishwasher, I realized that it had little screw-type legs, used to level it. By turning them, and lowering the machine, we would have more room to maneuver. With great difficulty, we turned the legs and achieved clearance. We started pulling again.

We only got the dishwasher out a few inches before we were stuck again. After Mike’s mighty tugs failed to produce any progress, I looked under the sink and saw that the drain hose was still connected to the garbage disposal. Mike disconnected it and was baptized a true plumber with the hose’s foul drippings. Then, we started pulling on the dishwasher again.

This time, we managed to get it about 6 inches out, before reaching an impasse. Mike smashed his hand in one of our tugging attempts, and then went to look at the directions again. Turns out that these are the steps:
1. Turn off the power.
2. Turn off the water.
3. Disconnect the outlet hose.
4. Disconnect the inlet pipe.
5. Disconnect the wiring.
6. Lower the leveling legs.
7. If the dishwasher is still difficult to remove, check for any connections you may have missed.
Looks like we missed some connections.

Disconnecting the inlet pipe was difficult and Mike ended up taking a part of the dishwasher with the drain pipe. Once steps 4 and 5 were complete, the dishwasher came out fairly easily, despite the fact that the back was not on wheels. (Modern dishwashers have wheels in place of the back two feet.) We covered the exposed wires with a glass bowl to protect the cats and took a break.

Mike did most of the installation alone. He seemed to have no trouble with the outlet hose. It was the darn inlet pipe that confounded him. The parts didn’t match up. My solution to this sort of thing is to start taking shit apart. Using two pairs of pliers, I tried to separate the bits of tubing at the house end of the pipe. We managed to get one piece off, but still didn’t have a match between the house line and the machine. Mike made the first of many subsequent trips to Home Depot and came back with tubing and compression clamps. He was able to complete the water supply. We turned the water on.

Apparently, I don’t know my own strength. In my attempt to separate what I thought were screwed together bits of copper pipe, I compromised the soldering. Water spurted out near the end of the house line. We couldn’t simply pull the tubing further over the pipe because one of the soldered-on pieces was an elbow and the tubing wouldn’t make the corner.

I thought that we could caulk the joint. We even had waterproof caulk in the garage. I brought the container inside and tried to squeeze some out. It wasn’t dried up, but the caulk just wouldn’t come out. I looked at the package and realized we needed a caulking gun. We went back to Home Depot.

Once in the plumbing aisle of Home Depot, we were quickly distracted. There was a how-to-solder display, lengths of shiny copper pipe, and mysterious plumbing products to ogle. We forgot all about the caulking gun and left the store with plumber’s putty. If you’re a plumber, you’ll laugh, but we though that the putty was like play-dough caulk. We could just roll a snake, wrap it around the leaking joint, and, voila, a seal! Once we started playing with it at home, we realized we were wrong. I looked up the use of plumber’s putty on the internet and read that it is used between fittings, as a gasket, not around fittings. Back to Home Depot.

This time, I was convinced that we just needed to resolder the joint. As a back up, we considered cutting the elbow joint off the pipe and the linking the dishwasher and pipe via a hose. However, that was the last resort; I was excited about playing with a torch! We bought a soldering kit that included a cylinder of gas, torch attachment, flux, and solder. We also bought a 3/4" copper pipe cutter.

Mike was in charge of the fire and I was in charge of the flux and solder. I painted on the flux, and he flamed the joint. We had a number of problems. First, the torch kept going out. Second, no matter how carefully he aimed the torch, Mike was also flaming the rubber hosing and electrical wires under the dishwasher. Third, the flux wasn’t sizzling like it was supposed to. Supposedly, once the flux is hot, it sizzles, and that is your cue to apply the solder wire, which apparently just melts right on. We had no sizzling and no melting. We belatedly experimented on a test piece of pipe outside. Despite all our flaming, there was still no sizzling. We tried applying the solder with the flame still on the pipe and that just caused a piece of solder to fall off the spool. It didn’t melt. We were soldering failures.

It was time to cut the pipe. Mike whipped out his fancy schmancy pipe cutter only to realize that it didn’t cut 3/4" and smaller pipe. It only cut 3/4". Our pipe was 3/8”. Rather than return to Home Depot, we visited our friend Tim, across the street. He lent us a hacksaw and Mike made quick work of the pipe. At last, we turned on the water and had no leaks.

Mike connected the wires and I turned on the breakers. It was time for a test run. The machine began to quietly hum. Mike joined me outside and did a victory dance. After watching me trim the trees, he went inside to find a flood.

The water, strangely enough, was coming from under the sink. Mike had connected one end of the outlet hose to the washing machine and the other end to nothing. The hose was gushing soapy water into the cabinet. I ran for towels and we mopped up the mess. Mike completed the drain hose connection and finally declared the system fit for use.

We’ve been collecting dirty dishes, so I was relieved to have a machine to wash them, rather than me. I loaded that bad boy up, filled the detergent cup, and turned it on. The machine came to life. It was incredibly quiet. In fact, I was puzzled because the lady who sold it to me had gotten rid of it because it was too noisy. I asked Mike if he had turned the water back on after the flood. He assured me that he had, so I let the dishwasher run its course.

After the machine had run its cleaning and drying cycles, I opened it. It was very warm and the dishes were very dirty. The detergent was pooled at the bottom. We had just cooked our dirty dishes. I checked the faucet handle. It was off. I turned it on and ran the dishwasher again. This time, the dishes came out sparkling clean. Thankfully, the baking hadn’t damaged the dishwasher or permanently bonded the food to the dishes.

I ran another beautiful load and rejoiced in the time I have rescued from dishwashing. It needs a little cosmetic work, but the kitchen is so much more pleasant to use with a new refrigerator, new stove, and new-to-us dishwasher.

1. $50 used dishwasher and $45 unnecessary plumbing equipment (putty, pipe cutter, soldering kit)
2. 5 hours labor
3. 7 towels
4. Three trips to Home Depot and one to neighbor Tim’s

Monday, April 04, 2005

Free Trees!

You may have noticed that I like free things: free newsletters, free mulch, and, now, free trees! (Free campgrounds are not so good.)

On Friday, our county library branches were giving away Austrian Pine seedlings. These trees are fast growing, tolerate almost any conditions, and provide a visual screen when young. I picked mine up on Friday afternoon and transported it home on the bus. (It looked so precious poking out of my purse.) Although it was raining and Mike was waiting to take me to dinner and a movie, I was a responsible mommy and planted my tree baby in the backyard as soon as I got home. Now we just have to be sure not to mow it, because it is only twelve inches high. Grow, tree, grow!

Also on Friday, I joined the National Arbor Day Foundation for $10. I didn’t do it out of the goodness of my heart. I joined for the ten free trees! After entering your zip code, you can choose from among a list of tree packages. I chose the ten flowering trees. I realize that the trees will be seedlings and I probably will never see them bloom, but at $1/tree they were almost free! And the shipping was totally free!

The Austrian Pine giveaway is over, but I thought I would share the National Arbor Day Foundation membership incentive. It sounds like many of my fellow housebloggers will be in their homes long enough to see their almost-free trees grow up.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Duchesnea Indica Unmasked

While pursuing my botany degree, I learned to identify many native plants – on the West Coast. Here, in Ohio, I might as well be on the moon. Nothing is familiar. Since our arrival in July, I have been inspecting and attempting to identify the local flora.

I first noticed what appeared to be small strawberry plants on the back side of our ghetto apartment on Ohio street. They had tri-foliate leaves, runners, and small, strawberry-like fruits. When we bought our house, I noticed the plant again. I mentioned it to the real estate agent and he said that these “wild strawberries” were a local lawn nuisance. Indeed, they have taken over the shady backyard. Unconvinced that these truly were strawberries (I did not taste the fruit, but squished it and found it to be very dry), I posted a question on GardenWeb. Again, the verdict came back: wild strawberries.

Quite by accident, I discovered the true identity of these plants while searching for shade-loving plants. Duchesnea indica, commonly known as Indian Mock-Strawberry, originates in Eastern and southern Asia. It is a great shade plant, but quickly becomes invasive. The berries are edible, but dry and tasteless. The leaves are nearly identical to strawberry leaves, except for a difference in how much of the leaflet is toothed. The flowers are a dead giveaway, though. Mock strawberry’s flowers are yellow and a true strawberry’s flowers are white. I haven't seen the bloom yet.

So, mystery solved. I may still be nescient of the area’s native flora, but I’m getting to know the imported weeds!