Sometimes both useful and easy.

When I posted about borage two months ago, half of the commenters said they also hadn’t had luck growing it. For some it didn’t reseed itself; for others, the summers were too hot. Kim said, “I have always thought it to be easy,” though she doesn’t have any growing right now.

bee drinking from oregano

The uses of borage was the subject of several comments; a couple of people said they didn’t know what they would do with it if it did thrive. But Cathy wrote, “It is such a captivating plant which attracts bees and creates curiosity from human garden visitors.”

And it is primarily for the bees that I thought to grow it in my Pollinator Garden, and so that I could behold that pretty sight of borage with bees buzzing happily around it. I let the insects make use of the plants, such as the oregano I always grow, but rarely use myself. The bees drink their fill of its nectar and last year I got good pictures of them doing it. So I guess I would use borage as material for my photo art. 🙂

I want the borage for its pretty, often gorgeously blue, flowers. I would like to have a few of those flowers to put in salads or in cold drinks in the summertime. Martha asked if I would be making tea with it — perhaps I would! They say that tea made from the leaves tastes like cucumber. Here is a picture from the Internet of one way I can imagine enjoying those blue accents, come August.

A young friend dug four borage plants from her garden and brought them to me at church just this month. Then the weeks of rain began, so they are still sitting in their pots, but looking very healthy.

I have come to suspect that borage is a bit thirstier than most of the plants in my garden, and that previously it has died from drought. The one I bought and planted this spring is looking good after the recent season of bounty, during which its little roots were surrounded by as much water as they could drink, day after day, no matter where they reached. Once the rains stop — as of this evening, there is no rain at all on the forecast — I may just have to squirt a little extra from my garden hose on the borage, beyond what it gets from the drip irrigation.


It won’t be long before this flower cluster opens, and the bees arrive!
To do their work, to get their sweet drinks, they will find to be the easiest thing.

Favorites and friends in the garden.

The Mexican daisy “showered down the drystone walls” of Penelope Lively’s grandmother’s garden, and was “a Gertrude Jekyll favorite.” She mentions this plant, Erigeron karvinskianus, four times in her book Life in the Garden, finding its other common name “fleabane” to be disagreeable (as do I).

June 2016

“And, as for me, it has become a kind of signature plant; in London, it has obligingly seeded itself all round the railings at the front of my house, and down the iron steps to the basement. And it has spread along this side of the square, colonizing other frontages, where others have clearly welcomed it — only one insensitive neighbor has torched it with weed-killer.”

I’ve been surprised at how much I have in common with this London gardener. I also have Erigeron, which my landscape designer four years ago knew would fit nicely into my vision for the back garden. At the time I didn’t foresee how I would love it.

Today it is a bit bedraggled by all the drenching it’s received, just when it was beginning to put on a show after being sheared a month ago. When I went looking for a photo showing it in its glory, I found scenes from the past that show how far things have developed.

September 2016

Compare that to this morning, and we can see that clearly, one of the first things I must do when the rain finally stops, is to trim back the native currant that has evolved from being simply a pleasant a background to the bench.

Because very soon, I’m hoping one of you will come and sit there with me, while we drink tea and gaze out on the Mexican daisies and other beauties, talking gardens or whatever you like. ❤

The birds and I find plenty.

A titmouse was clinging to the topmost branch of the juniper bush out front, when I came out the front door to take a walk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one here before. I told him that I had some nice food that he would like in the back garden, and he should go try it out. He did fly off in that direction… Of course, this is not his picture at right.

I’ve been worrying about the crows that only this year have touched down on my property and pecked around a bit on the patio. Will they frighten off the songbirds? Will they start poking and plowing in my flowerpots the way they did on Joy’s deck in Monterey? They were one topic I discussed with the nice man at the Wild Birds Unlimited store I visited yesterday.

As we talked he pointed to the crows and doves and woodpeckers feeding outside the picture window at the front of the shop, and said that in his experience a few crows do not discourage smaller birds. He said that crows eat anything, so there was nothing I could leave out of my feeders that might be specially attracting them. I looked over the list of which seeds and nuts the various birds like, and brought home a slight variation on what I’d been buying elsewhere.

This afternoon I put a few peanuts with the sunflower seeds in the tray feeder, and it wasn’t long before a chickadee flew down and immediately flew off with one in his beak. Though lately I haven’t seen large flocks of finches and juncos swooping through the garden the way they did in early spring, a goldfinch did eat sunflower “chips” from my chapel feeder today, and at the same moment a few feet away the hooded oriole drank from the hummingbird feeder.

I haven’t tried in the last year or so to do much bird photography, but I found these pictures I did get when my new landscaping was still only sleeping and creeping. The background is much changed, but the birds look similar; probably at least the orioles are the same pair that have “come back every year from Costa Rica or wherever they overwinter,” as the man at the store led me to believe.

The chickadee only let me get close enough for a picture because — what I didn’t know at the time — he was concerned at my own threatening proximity to the birdhouse where chickadee eggs were incubating that year. No one seems to be nesting in that house so far this spring, though we saw bluebirds checking it out many weeks ago.

The garden is wet. We’ve had drenching rain day and night, with more to come. It’s strange to have this much rain in May; normally we’re getting the last of our garden planting done. There was supposed to be a break of an hour or two, which was my chance to get out on the paths. I was glad to be wearing my raincoat because plenty of little showers came down after all before I reached home again.

I have still been drinking in the roses wherever I find them. If they are within reach I will bend over and find out whether their olfactory gifts are rich enough to keep me standing there inhaling and blocking the sidewalk. This white one just down the block is quite plain in the color department, but it always makes me stop a long time to receive its “hello” with  my nose.

I walked into moist currents of other delicious smells this afternoon, and once looked up wondering what it was. I saw this honeysuckle — not what I was smelling — and though it seemed to have had a bit of its scent temporarily washed away, its posture was impeccable.

The sweetness I got from it this time was all in my memory, how when my granddaughter Annie was being pushed out of the womb, and I was taking care of her brothers, we came with trowels and a bucket to dig cuttings from this very patch to plant in my previous garden. That was seventeen years ago this month, and I’ll be attending her graduation from high school in a couple of weeks 🙂

The birds seem to like feeding in the rain. The male goldfinch sat on top of the penstemon for a few minutes as it blew in the wind, while rain poured down. Eventually he came up to the feeder for his seeds. Even now when it’s almost too dark, I can see the doves and house finches flying in for one more bedtime snack.

Soggy or not, whether full or empty of birds, my garden is my heart’s nourishment. I have missed the garden lately because of two aspects of my remodeling project. First, it takes time at this point to peruse options for flooring, paint, and bath fixtures. But the second distraction is greater: it’s my own attitude about these tasks. I don’t feel adequate to them, I don’t like making these decisions alone, etc. etc. I have worked myself into a tizzy more than once, and have lain awake with my mind aswirl, murmuring about these “problems.”

With the help of two priests, the prayer of the Optina Elders, and quite a bit of listening to the Psalter over the last few days, I have calmed myself and am trying to remember that God is with me at the paint store and helping me make decisions, just as He was with me in my waiting for the architect during Lent. All will be well. This is the Prayer of the Optina Elders:

O Lord, grant unto me that with Thy peace
I may greet all that this day is to bring.
Grant unto me grace to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will.
In every hour of this day instruct and guide me in all things.
Whatever tidings I may receive during this day,
do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly
in the firm belief that Thy holy will governs all.
Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.
When unforeseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone,
that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one.
Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day
and to bear my part in its events.
Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe,
to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

This afternoon my neighbor Kim was going to come down to look at carpet samples on site, which my dear daughters can’t do. Kim couldn’t come today, so instead I took a walk, and watched birds, and I even did some more plant identification from a picture that Soldier sent me from Colorado, of what I think are bluebells.

Months ago I had started reading a book that Pearl gave me, Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively. Today I was so relaxed and focused that I had the good sense to know that it was okay, even good, for me to sit and read it, and I am loving it. I don’t know if it or the titmouse was the icing on the cake of this peaceful and satisfying day, but the book is more sanitary, so let’s go with that. A splendid cake, tasty icing, fattening only to the soul.

My home and beyond.

As I walked in my neighborhood this afternoon, I thought about one of my recent walks and its discoveries and adventures that I’d never finished writing about. This time, as I went at my usual fast-walk-quick-stop pace, occasionally lingering for a longer-than-quick gaze or sniff, the idea of a new series (or at least category) of posts came to me. I would write about one thing from my own garden and one from my explorations, and that might facilitate shorter articles than usual, making them easier to fit into my current busyness.

So here goes:

In the fall of 2016 I planted lots of irises, mostly in the purple category. This one that just started blooming, a tall one that doesn’t seem to be a repeater, is called Jazzed Up. If it’s going to bloom late, it’s a good thing it is tall, so we can see it above the poppies and wallflowers.

Beyond my garden, only a block away from home I came upon the giant feijoa bush that I wrote about before; it was severely pruned last fall just before its fruit might have ripened. Today I found it at the beginning of bloom, the first delectable flowers opened; knowing that they would go to waste if left on the plant, I picked quite a few and carried them home in my shirttail.

When I emptied them into a bowl, an earwig ran out on to the floor. An hour later I began to pull off the petals, and jumped when another earwig appeared. He must have been hiding in a curled up petal as in a cave.

If I knew someone who needed a birthday cake this month, I would bake one just so I could decorate with these flowers (after examining each petal for stowaways). But I don’t, so I ate the petals for dessert with a bit of cream.