I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to writing the first blog post to follow the one memorializing my father. But when I remember how he began each day, with enthusiasm and vigor, I realize the best way to honor his memory is to follow his example in life. Now you may be wondering what these photos from my garden have to do with Dad’s invention – the Texas Fireframe grate. Let me explain…
Spring always marked the end of the Texas Fireframe season – time to give the fireplace one last cleaning and be done for the year. But not anymore. Tulips and daffodils now herald a new season of fire building as more and more homeowners are seeking the warmth and beauty of an outdoor fire. I receive calls and e-mails from customers with freestanding outdoor chimneys which enable them to enjoy the “Physicist’s Fire” year-round. (A chimney cap keeps rain off the heavy-duty steel grate.) One customer in Santa Fe brings his Texas Fireframe grate outside every spring; our smallest model, the U-17, fits perfectly in his adobe style fireplaces – both indoors and out. Other customers have classic stone outdoor chimneys that accommodate our larger models.
For many of us, an outdoor fire evokes nostalgic memories of summer camp; I still remember joining the circle around the campfire every night– singing those familiar camp songs – everyone’s faces illuminated by the dancing flames of the fire that we all pitched in to build. (I have yet to hear of anyone singing Michael Row The Boat Ashore in front of their Texas Fireframe grate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few s’mores have been consumed.)
If you have an outdoor chimney or you’re thinking about building one, you’ll be glad to know that the principles of physics that cause more radiant heat from a Texas Fireframe grate to be directed out into the room (compared to a conventional grate) are just as effective in an outdoor room as they are indoors. Feel free to call us or visit our website if you want to know more about the Texas Fireframe grate. Check out our customers’ grate reviews and read about their experiences from Maine to California to – of course – Texas. My dad’s unique fireplace grate has also garnered some wonderful press, including Time, New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens and Scientific American .
On that note, I wish you a beautiful, bountiful Spring and I hope you enjoy these photos of my lightly shaded garden in southern Connecticut – the “eastern branch” of the Texas Fireframe Company. (Click to enlarge photos and click again anywhere on the photo for a close-up.) Blooming right now are small-leaved rhododendrons, fragrant viburnum, kerria japonica, flowering cherry, bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), “Sherwood Purple” (Phlox stolonifera), lamium, hellebore, forget-me-nots (biennial and perennial), Virginia bluebells and a variety of daffodils and tulips. I must mention that the Phlox stolonifera is a favorite of mine. Three tiny plants spread to the purple mass at the base of an oak tree in the photo, and then seeds from the plant surprised me with another mass of bloom 30 feet downwind. But this plant is not invasive; it’s easily contained, forming a lush groundcover when not in bloom. It also tolerates some shade (unlike its ubiquitous cousin, phlox subulata). Definitely worth a double-click!
If you’d like an endless supply of bright blue forget-me-nots and a few weeks later, columbines of all colors, you only need a few plants. Let the flowers go to seed and learn to distinguish the tiny leaves of the new seedlings from weeds so you don’t pluck the desirable plants by accident. Allow these prolific biennials to flourish in your garden year after year. Biennials sprout leaves the first year and blooms the second and thereafter, though are generally not as long-lived as perennials.
Check back for more developments in the garden. Buds are swelling on the irises and peonies. As you’re enjoying the outdoors again, be sure to add to your log pile – there are many opportunities for acquiring free logs – which can burn unsplit on a Texas Firerame grate if they’re 10” or less in diameter. (Our log grate handles split logs too.)