Tag Archives: California Poppy

Not random but various.

Not infrequently the feeling of unreality comes upon me: It doesn’t compute that I am living a full life without my husband. He has not lent his strength to the shovel, or played music while I made dinner, or given me an opinion about one single thing. For three years. Really?? My mind does its best to go along with my body as it sleeps alone, and wakes up alone, walks alone, and makes always unilateral decisions. But occasionally it says, “Wait a minute! I’m confused… Who are we…? I don’t like change!”

I think that’s part of the reason I act as though every little thing I think and do must be documented here or in my bullet journal, or my garden journal, or a letter to someone. I am watching myself, noticing that this strange woman does get up every day so far, and worships, and comes up with new ideas for the garden; she has friends who act as though she is as normal a person as can be.

Of course I mostly go with that assessment without thinking about it. My, do I have friends! They are the greatest. Since Mr. and Mrs. Bread gave me a new Chapel Birdfeeder for my birthday, I also have blue jays enjoying my garden like never before.

Book friends! Several women readers at church have started a reading group. They read Jane Eyre first, but I didn’t join their ranks until this spring when they are giving themselves six weeks to read Work by Louisa May Alcott, a book I’d never heard of. How can I even finish Middlemarch and write about it, much less finish Work? It does seem that I am testing the limits of this new life I am creating, and I act at times like a silly crazy woman. Would I rather spend time on Work or housework? I don’t even know!

My friend “Mr. Greenjeans” and his wife gave me a tour of their garden the other day, and quiche afterward. He is an encyclopedia of plants and loves to experiment with exotic seeds in his greenhouse. This year he has potato towers that have an upper storey that will be for melons!

I was interested in his mystery tree, which he thinks sprouted from one of the seeds in a packet that was a South American mixture. I was thinking “Africa” when I went home and searched online for some tree from that part of the world that had these green-tipped narrow trumpet flowers, and the same kind of leaves. I couldn’t find anything. (My friend Father C. in Kenya said they have this tree, but he doesn’t know the name, and his pictures didn’t look very similar.)

Soon Mrs. Greenjeans clarified that the source was likely South America, not Africa.

Update: Lucky for me Anna in Mexico saw my post and in her comment below she identified it as nicotiana glauca or Tree Tobacco, originating in Argentina.

My farmer friend has also been successful in growing several seedling trees of Red Mahogany Eucalyptus, which makes great lumber, and the Australian Tea Tree, which puts on a gorgeous display of white blooms, and from which he explained how I could make tea tree oil, if I would accept one of the trees he was offering me. But I took home a lovely columbine instead, which I know can find a small place in my garden.

Mr. Greenjeans also makes dough at least half the time for our Communion bread baking teams at church. For some months I have tried to pick tiny pink specks out of the dough as I am rolling it; today I heard that they are from Himalayan salt that he uses! So now I am happy to see them.

I was able to do all these kneading-rolling-cutting things because my sprained finger is finally better! Here is our team leader putting some prosphora into the oven this morning:

Team Leader and my friend (Nun) Mother S. have invited me to go walking or hiking a few times lately. Once we went to the same park I last visited the day of Jamie’s birth, the day after my husband’s funeral! Because of a downed tree blocking the trail …

 

… we weren’t able to take the shady route by the creek, and the sun was hot, so I lent Mother S. my hat.

Not as many wildflowers caught our attention in May as three years ago in March, but I did find a few.

Back home in my garden, the red poppies have opened, later than the pale yellow by a month. My skirt blew into the frame for contrast.

 

The last time I walked by the creek – at least a week ago! – I cut these roses, which because of the way they naturally fall over a fence are curved all funny and do not work very well in a vase, unless you put them on the top of the hutch the way I did, so that they hang down above my head as I sit here at the computer. Sweet things!

Last weekend son Soldier and his family were here, which made for a splendid couple of days. Liam is nearly six years old. He reads everything, and I saw him poring over a few books from my shelf…. That was a new thing, and a little sad, because he never asked me to read to him, but he did help me cut up my snowball clippings. He is good with the loppers or rose pruners.

P1000485Tomorrow I’m showing one elderly lady from church my India pictures. The next day I’m visiting my friend E. who is 102 now and who gave me the knitting needles that her mother-in-law gave her when she got married! This weekend my friend O. has engaged me to feed his cat Felafel while he is on a trip, and give him thyroid pills in tasty pill pouches. I met Felafel tonight and he is very friendly and agreeable.

For Soul Saturday I’ll make a koliva because my goddaughter Kathie’s 3-year memorial is near. And Holy Spirit Day, the day after Pentecost, is the same as Memorial Day this year; we have a prayer service at a cemetery. It’s quite a week, busy with various good things. And this is really me!

Candles and flowers for Pascha.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!

The last several days have been kind of a blur. We Orthodox were “in Jerusalem,” our rector kept reminding us, following Christ step by step from the day He was acclaimed and lauded with hosannas, on through His last meal with those men closest to him, His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, a farce of a trial… and on to the cross on which He offered Himself for our sakes. Every day of Holy Week we had at least two holy and liturgically rich services, sometimes three.

This year I was able to participate in these beautiful and moving services more than ever before, and to feel the continuity of them, at the same time seeing afresh how each is unique. This was the first time I thought, after Vespers on Holy Friday, “Oh, I must try to come tonight again, for Matins of Holy Saturday, because there will be the reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones, which in the whole year I can only hear tonight.” And stronger still was the need to be with family whose Beloved was suffering; how could I think of resting at that point?

But we did all occasionally have to go home for sleep or to eat a bite and many people of course must work or attend school. So between my car and my front door I would take a picture, and when I went out in back between rain showers to get some more firewood I took some more. I am in love with the new fig leaves and miniature knobs of fruits.

Saturday we gathered at 11:30, under clear skies; at midnight we streamed slowly out of the church with singing, and came back to the porch to hear, “He is risen! Why seek ye the living among the dead? Christ is a stranger to corruption!” I took some pictures that are blurry, but I guess that’s appropriate. I was so sleepy, my mind was a bit foggy, too, in a happy daze.

Children slept in a jumble of blankets on the floor, or played with the melting beeswax of their candles. Adults like me are often seen playing with their candles, too! Before the service started I sat on a bench along the wall and kept putting my unlit candle to my nose to drink the heady honey scent.

I had an extra friend from church stay here for a few days to reduce her driving time. She brought me pale pink tulips, so lovely. And Trader Joe’s had stock in other perfectly Paschal-Spring colors, from which I made my first stock bouquet ever. In the garden are dozens of calla lilies that I will bring in tomorrow.

We returned for Paschal Vespers on Sunday afternoon (So strange to sleep, and then eat breakfast on a Sunday morning!) and then a BBQ and picnic. And this morning the radiant Bright Monday service, processing with decorated Artos bread. The weather has been perfect for the last two or three days, but more rain is coming. What a blessing all that rain is; and I’m glad I don’t live where it snows at this time. But even there, it would be springtime in our hearts.

By Thy Cross, Thou didst destroy the curse of the tree.
By Thy burial Thou didst slay the dominion of death.
By Thy uprising, Thou didst enlighten the race of man.
O Benefactor, Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Summer whites and lesser colors.

gl 6 chamomilegerman.jpg 6-16I got confused about my chamomile. All I could remember was that one is perennial and the other annual. When I noticed that they are both starting to bloom now, I had to try to figure out which was which again. This is what I’ve found.

<< The annual German or Hungarian chamomile is the taller of the two, to 24″. From what I read it often self-sows, and I hope it will do that in my yard.

German: Chamomilla recutita syn Matricaria chamomilla 

gl 6 redpoppies

It’s growing near the red California poppy that I planted from a nursery pot, and whose flowers just opened this week. The white variety of this plant that I put in at the same time bloomed a couple of months ago, much less enthusiastically.

That makes me think about something I read in the Summer book I mentioned last week, a quote from Chesterton, from “A Piece of Chalk,” in which he gives an account of how he reluctantly tore himself away “from the task of doing nothing in particular,” and set off into “the great downs” of England with his brown paper and his brightly colored chalks, all on a summer’s day.

To his dismay he had neglected to bring any white chalk — and he begins to hold forth on how the color white, in art and in morals, is essential:

One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals is this, that white is a colour….a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars….Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.

Perhaps my spindly white wildflowers, just starting out and blooming faintly without any other color around them to contrast with (even their foliage was already faded when the buds opened), do not provide a fitting metaphor to match this principle, but it did seem like a good place to tuck in that quote about something I do believe in.

93e53-yellowcapoppy4-11So far I haven’t sown any seed for the standard orange color of our state flower because I am a little afraid of them taking over. The other colors are not as vigorous, but some of them are really special in their rarity and subtlety, and when I have had one re-seed itself or, more often, go dormant and hidden for the winter only to surprise me the next spring, I am thrilled. This pale yellow one did just that for several years in my old garden, but could not be saved.                                                                                                           >>

The red ones are my first variety that are both rare and bright. I hope they self-sow — but much of the garden is experimental. I’ll see over the next months what likes growing in this environment, and not fuss over the things that aren’t thriving.

Back to the chamomile… Just in case the Germans don’t bear children next year, I planted a perennial type, the Roman or Nobile. It grows half as tall and is sometimes used as a walkable ground cover, or part of an herbal lawn mix.

gl 6 Roman 1

<< Roman: Chamaemelum nobile syn Anthemis nobilis

An hour after I took this picture, I strolled past again and noticed that ten more buds had swelled enough to be noticeable. History in the making!

I had a house guest for two nights and a day – we spent a nourishing and relaxing time, even though we did no artwork or gardening or poetry-reading. We did eat and shop and update our family birthday lists. But now I have lots of garden work that needs to be done, before I go to see brand-new Baby Brodie next week. Here’s a yarrow bloom for you to look at while I am out tending to my beds.

gl 6 yarrow 6-16

Philoflora

pink climber at church 09
old picture of friend I helped this week

The job I was committed to doing in the church garden was deadheading roses. It took longer than I expected because in the years since I bowed out of regular gardening there, many more floribunda roses have been planted, and most of those needed a thorough trimming right about now.

The first day I put off driving over there until midday, and in spite of my sun hat I got hot and tired halfway through. So later in the week I started earlier in the morning and enjoyed my work very much. Some of the rose bushes are my old friends, and some other plants are, too.

Like this Phormium oP1100242r New Zealand Flax. I didn’t plant these, but on my watch, maybe five years ago, the plant in one pot died. I combed the nurseries in vain to find a replacement, and then I had a brilliant idea. Since these perennials grow constantly larger, I could “thin” and divide the two healthy plants and use what I cut off to start a new one in the third container.

It was a big project, but I completed it in a few hours one day. I spread a tarp on the concrete nearby, and after watering the pots thoroughly I managed to turn them on their sides without breaking them, and get the plants, dirt and roots dumped out. Then I cut and reassembled my plants and set them back in new planting mix. I must not have had my camera that day because the only pictures of the event are in my mind.P1100243

Now don’t they still look good? New Zealand Flax (not related to the Linum usitatissimum that we would call the real thing) doesn’t need much water, and in order to stay attractive it only wants old dry leaves pulled out or trimmed off from time to time. When I passed by these plants I noticed that this trimming hadn’t been done recently so I used my rose pruners and took care of them before I took their picture.P1100233

At home, where my tasks are more vast, I have run into problems. I put off adding horizontal support lines for the sweet peas until it would have been near impossible to get behind them to do it  — so they grew about twice as high as the trellising, and bravely reached for the sky, holding on with their delicate tendrils — to what? Only to each other. And then, still clinging together, they fell.P1100235

At this point the only rescue that could be accomplished was very crude and unpretty, but it should make it possible for me to get a few more bouquets of the flowers that are now on very short stems indeed, because of the heat.

seed bank crp

 

For my birthday a while back a friend took me to the Baker Creek Seed store near here, which is in an old bank building that they now call The Seed Bank. She wanted to buy me some seeds, but as it was a surprise I wasn’t at all prepared. What to get? I ended up with hollyhocks to plant next fall, and hyssop and fennel that I planted this spring, but I don’t remember what day. That’s flaky to begin with.P1090112

None of the seed packets from Baker Creek have much information onP1100253 them of the sort I’m used to. They don’t tell you how many days to maturity, or how deep to plant the seeds, or how many days they might take to sprout. Maybe they have that info online? If so, that’s too new-fangled for me; I don’t have a smart phone that I consult when I’m in the rows.

So I just watched my seed beds and kept them moist and saw that day after day nothing was coming up, except weeds and volunteer nasturtiums. One morning I decided it was time to face the failure and start in on the weeds – but wait! Those tiny two-pronged spikes I see when I put my face down by the dirt…. they just might be the beginnings of feathery fennel leaves! So I will wait a few more days. But the hyssop – I don’t think so.P1100252CA poppies yellow-pink 5-30-14

We put cages around our tomato plants, and I made labels to tape on the wire. Only about half as many plants as last year.

One successful  flower in the garden is this nice California Poppy in pink and yellow. I planted it last year from a mixed six-pack of seedlings, and it came back!

That’s my overview of the week’s Plant Love.