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Copper Sprinkler Works Blog - From Our Garden to Yours
Sunday, 21 October 2012 14:12

We just returned from a week “up north” (yes, even central Wisconsinites go even further north for their vacations).

When we left, trees were in full color. When we returned, all the trees had dropped their leaves. It is fall clean-up time. We keep our fall chores to a minimum mostly because we want to be able to enjoy the beauty of the season (all seasons are beautiful – it’s just how you look at them).

Today we headed out to rake some areas and drag those leaves deeper into the woods, creating compost piles that we won’t even recognize by next spring. Soon we’ll pull our bird fountain. While copper is definitely able to withstand the elements, it’s a good idea to move your sprinklers and fountains inside (a garage, toolshed, etc. is fine). Be sure to drain them (turn them upside down, give a gentle shake) so that no water is trapped which could freeze and perhaps weaken your piece.

If your copper piece doesn’t actively interact with water (a statue, for example), you can typically leave it in place throughout the winter season. We have a wind-spinner that is about 15 years old. We leave it out all year. It provides birds with a place to sit in the middle of our garden while they hunt for whatever food may still be available.

And speaking of birds – if you feed them, continue to do so. Even more importantly, provide them with water throughout the winter months. We keep a heated bird bath just outside our dining room window and are rewarded by visitors of all (bird) types throughout the winter.

Remember, enjoy the season – whichever one it is.

Sunday, 08 July 2012 11:46

This jungle that we’ve bought continues to surprise and delight. And having hardy geraniums all over the property is one of the many perks

Over the past several years, I’ve warmed to these beauties. They are hardy, but like to feign delicacy (much as one of my old pups liked to limp to get attention). I first met them (the geraniums, that is) at our previous house. We had a friend set up a landscape plan for us and he used them to anchor one of the corners in the yard.

When Charlie heard that geraniums were included, he balked. He had pictured those sturdy flowers in garden centers, cemetaries and pots around our grandmothers’ houses. (These traditional plants that many of us call geraniums are actually from the genus Pelargonium and are considered annuals in our northern climate.)

And then we saw these beauties. We put in a cluster and within two years, they were overcrowded. Could we divide them? We didn’t know and decided to take the shovel to them.

One clump stayed in its original location. The other moved four feet away. You would have thought we had set out to torture these plants. They laid their usually perky leaves on the ground in a state of “woe-is-me.” What could be wrong? We had chosen a cool, non-windy day, given them plenty of water and placed mulch all around them.

We went out to survey the damage the next day and found happy plants. The two groupings had perked up and were dancing in the wind. I began to call them my big baby geraniums.

When we discovered a few geranium plants around our new property, we were happy to see our new “big babies.” They have slightly larger leaves than our other plants and are found primarily in our woods. Here we have blue and purple flowers; before we had very light blue flowers.

And with paths now cut through the woods this past winter, we have seen them bursting forward in areas that suddenly have more sunlight.

They propagate by small nodules with runners. I’ve selected some nodules and relocated them. The original leaves dropped after a day or so. Since I was already familiar with their fainting act, I had faith that they would reappear and they did not disappoint.

These “real” geraniums (genus: Geranium) are hardy in our northern climate and they have an elegant toughness to them. I love them despite their desire to feign delicacy when they are either a bit over-crowded or are first dug up and separated. They swoon and wilt only to come back with a robustness that shouts their true heritage.

They can expand beyond your original planned area so keep a close eye. They are easy to pull up and then relocate. They like sun with afternoon shade. If you plant them in total shade, you’ll get leggy plants with very few flowers.

With little care, they’ll give you light dancing blooms through most of the summer, only stopping when the temperatures get above 90.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 00:00

We had been selling sprinklers and small indoor fountains at art and garden shows for a while when one of our customers asked if we had ever made a fountain for a bird bath.  You could have heard us smack our heads ala "I could have had a V8!" (no promotional value for V8 here - we're just saying...).  <

Charlie went back to his workshop and created two models - the single morning glory and the double morning glory.  They've been used in a variety of settings - bird baths, ponds, and indoor installations where a little water splash isn't a major concern.

We were a bit skeptical when we set the first one up in our backyard nearly ten years ago.  Would birds like it? Could/would they use it? There were no "takers" for a couple weeks, but as the birds adjusted to the new element in our yard, they started to hop on the flowers and take sips of water. Over the years, we've watched lots of birds (particularly chickadees and finches) take baths perched on the fountain flowers and rocks under the water streams.  Even robins get in on the action. Robins take full advantage of any water available to them when they are bathing (they are great fun to watch; as a heads-up, the water supply in the fountain usually needs to be replenished after these bad boys take their baths.

Currently, our bird bath sits under our dining room window. From there, we can watch birds come and go for their water routines (and to eat from the feeders).

If you are installing a fountain in a bird bath, you will need one that is at least four inches deep so that the pump is covered. We place rocks in the bottom of our bird bath to help stabilize the copper artwork, but more importantly, to give our bird friends a place to land.

See our two copper fountains here.

Saturday, 16 June 2012 09:35


Copper Sprinkler Works is the “company name” for the artwork produced by Charles McConkie. The writer of this blog (and probably most to come) is Kate Reck. I’m Charlie’s wife – or as I used to say at the art fairs, I’m the one who “sleeps with the talent.” (It wasn’t too risqué at the art shows - hope it translates okay here, too!)

We decided to take to the social media waves because we miss the “people-meeting” that came with going to art fairs and other public events with Copper Sprinkler Works in its earlier years. Many of Charlie’s ideas were sparked by conversations he had with folks who visited us in our booths.

And, we realized that a blog could be a fun and down-to-earth way of getting to know others who are interested in gardening, art, and anything that may be related to those two things.

Hence, the title, “From Our Garden to Yours.”

I’ve always been interested in gardening and sustainable living, but kids and life got in the way. Now the kids are on their own and I have the time and land to bring those interests back into my life. Over the winter, while Charlie was busy in his shop, I pulled out my old books on gardening, plant stores, and sustainable living. Going forward, I'll also use the Internet to find sites that offer new ideas.

I'll share our exploration of the five acres of land we call home – it was once planted by a phenomenal gardener and then neglected for years by later owners.

There are flowers everywhere on our property that are vaguely familiar to me and need researching. There are garden beds to be unearthed from years of neglect. There are new technologies to try and new ideas to hear.

And there is my husband (Charlie!) who is able to create absolutely breath-taking pieces (mostly flora-based) out of metal.

Please come back and follow our blog. I look forward to trying science experiments (what turns copper green the quickest?), figuring out how to get rid of the slugs in my hostas, and what great new artwork can be used in a garden setting (sometimes Charlie’s items, but there are lots of other artists’ ideas to share).

And, I will start my flower journal on documenting the flowers and plants we inherited and find.

Finally, we invite you to share with us your ideas – that’s the primary reason for this blog. To get a network of folks sharing ideas about gardening; landscaping; birding; sustainable living; and, of course, Charlie’s art.   I hope to get new ideas and suggestions from this community to use in our landscaping. We’ll be sure to share the before/after pictures when we put something into motion.

Thanks for joining us. It’s going to be a great adventure.


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