Tag Archives: echinacea

Under the August sun.

On my outing to the beach last week I snapped some pictures of coastal neighborhood landscapes. The spot I visited is by a hilly village of cottages, and in former days we used to walk up from the beach and admire the unique houses and plantings. This time I drove around slowly and leaned out the window a few times.

Things have been heating up here in an atypical way, which is what I hear from people all over. It’s not unusual to have a heat wave, but electric storms, rain showers, high winds and a series of muggy days definitely are not what we are used to at this season. I do like 90 degrees better without the dampness. Still, warm evenings — if they are calm — make me feel happy and more at home on the earth. Our standard weather, being frequently chased inside by the cold and damp summer breeze, is the downside of this temperate climate, but we’re always happy to go back to it after a period of scorching.

In my own garden the sunflowers,
white echinacea and asparagus
are creating their usual jungle.

Until this summer I had eaten exactly one plum from my two Elephant Heart  plum trees, which are in their fifth season. This summer they bore five green-speckled fruits, and I doled them out to myself over last week. Each one astonished me. I know that sounds overly dramatic, and sadly it doesn’t even tell you a thing about the fruit, whose flavor deserves a poem. I’ll work on that, especially if I get a few more to do research on next summer. I must mark my calendar so I’m not away on a trip at the beginning of August.

At church there are new things the current gardener has done. I wandered around the other day when the Japanese anemones were being appreciated by a bee, and lizards ran joyfully about from one hot sidewalk to another.

I hope you all are prospering in your souls,
and that your heads are not hanging too low,
like this sunflower I saw in my neighborhood —
though it is beautiful. Have courage!

I slake my thirst with gardens.

Way back in October, I think, was the last time a certain one of my favorite plant nurseries was open — until Saturday, when I drove over for the reopening. The retail aspect is a small part of a larger sustainable agriculture/ecological/educational project, and is only open on weekends in the warmer months. Over the years I’ve bought lots of annual vegetables there, but lately they focus on perennial edibles and and medicinal plants.

It’s a beautiful drive, out into the more rural areas of my county. I remembered to wear my sun hat to keep my scalp from burning, but when I got into the nursery area itself there was netting all over above, which probably made it unnecessary. Passionflowers bloomed like stars up there.

For an hour I got a huge rush of excitement and energy, as I saw more and more species of perennial salvias and echinacea species that I could take home and add to my pollinator garden. Echinacea Purpurea, Pallida, and Paradoxa. Salvia hians (Kashmir Sage), Salvia forsskaolii, Clary Sage and Dune Sage. The forsskaolii, or Indigo Woodland Sage, I used to have in my “old” garden, but it didn’t survive the transition. None of the new plants is in bloom yet so I’ll show them later after they are revealed in their fullness.

There was one plant that I had no desire to bring home for my garden, though they say it is grown worldwide as an ornamental. That is the Porcupine Tomato:

Solanum pyracanthos

This flowering tree grows near the entrance/checkout. Does anyone know what it is?

In my own garden, June seems to have arrived early, and so suddenly… I guess that’s because I’ve been sitting around moping and confused; I know I am way behind in planting the second planter box. But the rest of the garden just went on doing its thing, and is ready to comfort me now that I desperately need it. When there is a lull in the strange high winds we’ve been having, I can sit out there and silently bake, in the company of other creations and creatures. For a few moments at a time I revel in just being.

The showy milkweed is over five feet high already, and in the back yard it’s a favorite of the bees, along with the lavender and the echium. Oh, speaking of echium, I saw my type at the nursery; I must have bought it there several years ago. It is not the Pride of Madeira-echium candicans that is more typical here. As recently as last week, though, I thought it was just an oddly growing form of it. If it were Pride of Madeira it would have blocked the path by now; good thing it’s more vertical!

See the bee on the left, against the sky?
Pretending to be real trees.
In a spring storm two branches broke off.
Back before spring had fully sprung.

At the nursery my kind was called Tower of Jewels, and just now I found a helpful site that explains all the different forms. Mine is also called Tree Echium, echium pininana. I never noticed before how the echium flowers resemble borage and my newer plant, bugloss. Well, they are all in the borage family.

echium Tower of Jewels
bugloss

I took a slow-motion video of the bees out front on the germander (teucrium). In real time they seem very excited, almost frantic, in their buzzing from flower to flower, but when I watched the video it showed their true selves as purring bee-copters taking all the time in the world, that is, the whole day and their whole short lives, to do their work.

I’m needing to take long breaks from talking this week, mostly my own, which seems like more and more idle talk. No one talks in my garden. Even the tropical birds have been moved to their new home far enough away that I can’t hear them; now I can hear the native singers’ quieter tunes and gentle chirps.

I think I was looking for a quote on a different topic this morning when I ran across this beloved one (a beloved quote? really? Yes.) from G.K. Chesterton:

Women have a thirst for order and beauty as for something physical;
there is a strange female power of hating ugliness and waste
as good men can only hate sin and bad men virtue.

Forget for a moment the reductionist nature of these ideas — most short quotes, in order to be pithy, have to focus on one or two ideas and lay aside the complexities of the subject. Just think about what we are thirsty for… (You men also thirst, naturally.) I realized just this morning — by bathing in the the sunshine and the lavender scent, the breeze and the humming — and this afternoon, by speaking briefly about it with a wise person, that the very concrete realness, the materiality of my garden satisfies something. Maybe my garden has to do double-duty right now because of the recent lack of human touching.

How it helps me pray… I don’t need to figure out that mystery. I just want to enter in.

On Passover afternoon, ten days ago now, we had Kneeling Vespers of Pentecost. Almost everyone took part at home, but I live close to the church and I drove over in hopes that there would be few enough of us that I could participate indoors. My hope was realized! I’m sharing this picture because of the golden sunshine. May God fill us with His light!

The hospitable coneflowers.

The white echinacea were covered in blooms when I got home from my three weeks away. These flowers make striking backdrops for butterflies especially, and a Painted Lady was giving me lots of photographic opportunities yesterday. I’m sharing several pictures because each one highlights a different aspect of the exquisite form; the light changed slightly, the insect opened its wings wider…

The hairs on its body, and the translucence of the wings, the white tip at the ends of the antennae  — I couldn’t see these things at all in the glare of midday, but only later in the dimness of evening, in the digital image.

I’ve seen a few other critters on these flowers, but they were mostly in too big a hurry for me to study them with my camera. In the back yard, the narrowleaf milkweed that briefly hosted a single Monarch caterpillar last summer are so colonized by aphids that I can’t imagine any butterfly finding a good place to land, if she did want to try that place again. It was a little later in the season that the Monarch events happened last year; maybe there’s time for me to get rid of the aphids somehow, and hope that they’ve left some nourishment in the leaves for caterpillars…

My Golden Guide to Insects tells me that “The painted lady or thistle butterfly is reported to be the most widely distributed of all known butterflies.” And this may be because the many and varied plants the larvae feed on are also common — including sunflowers. That means, when those butterflies are ready, they can just flutter southward a few feet to find a spot on my nutritious and healthy Delta Sunflowers to lay their eggs. Until then, girls, you are welcome to drink at my hospitable coneflowers.

 

The ripe October light.

In the fall, the fresh air and thin, slanted light combine to put so many things in a new, or renewed, perspective. When I read the poem below, I found myself searching my surroundings for images that fit the poet’s words.

Down at the creek I had seen the leaves starting to turn, so I took their picture. But between now and then I’ve noticed so many other things even closer by that are infused with energy, and at the same time invite me to an intangible, but most real, resting place.

The sky bright after summer-ending rain,
I sat against an oak half up the climb.
The sun was low; the woods was hushed in shadow;
Now the long shimmer of the crickets’ song
Had stopped. I looked up to the westward ridge
And saw the ripe October light again,
Shining through leaves still green yet turning gold.
Those glowing leaves made of the light a place
That time and leaf would leave. The wind came cool,
And then I knew that I was present in
The long age of the passing world, in which
I once was not, now am, and will not be,
And in that time, beneath the changing tree,
I rested in a keeping not my own.

-Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir