I wondered why I hadn’t seen any goldfinches on the feeder lately. It hasn’t been pouring rain all the time, and a couple of weeks ago they liked feeding even during showers. The weather has been mostly a big cloud, and then added to that, I have personally been Under the Weather. When I came out from under, and the sun also came out, I explored my estate this morning and discovered that the nyger seed has become sprout soup.
The Christmas cactus missed Christmas, being shut up in the dark greenhouse. Now it is blooming, and frosty weather isn’t imminent, so I took it out where I can see it from my kitchen window. The tarragon is growing well in that greenhouse, though.
How many pictures of poppies can I post here before my readers start to rebel? How would you show your ennui? Probably you all are too kind to say anything. It’s really not that easy to get a good picture of an Iceland poppy; there is just a moment when the delicate petals are fresh and new, and the sun is not too bright. Yellow flowers are almost always too bright even without the sun. They blooms can’t be too wet, or they hang their heads soggily. This one was the morning’s gift.
A pair of blue jays were playing in my manzanita and pine when I came back from my walk this foggy morning. I hadn’t seen any here in many months. Oh, down by the creek I do, not far away; I don’t wonder that they prefer to hang out where there’s even more going on, more things to eat. True, there are no manzanita bushes or Canary Island Pines by the creek; maybe they came here for the the dried manzanita berries under the bush.
Anyone who has been following the Iceland poppy contest in my garden will want to see what I think is the winner of the endurance trial. It is probably an indication of how cool our summer has been, that one plant stayed alive all through August and accomplished a lonely bloom on September 7th. Surely it is the last! — and the plant does appear to be shriveling, as its companions did a few weeks ago.
In the vegetable boxes, mice, as I suppose, are eating tomatoes. I don’t seem to have energy to find a deterrent to these nightly raids; I do know that the mice probably need the fruit more than I do… but it’s an ugly mess they are making, and the solution is probably to pull out the Early Girls that are the favored item on the mouse menu. With the weather we’ve been getting, it’s not likely that the tomatoes will get as ripe as I require, anyway, and I have seen some appealing recipes for fried green tomatoes lately.
My front yard re-landscaping might be completed this month. Right now we are waiting … the hardscape is finished, these pictures showing the work of two weeks ago.
And back in the back yard, I finally bought a bench for the corner by the birdhouse, and Soldier happened to be here soon after to assemble it for me. Look how tall the native currants have grown up in that corner! As soon as the rains begin (God willing, they shall) the calla lilies will start sprouting enthusiastically and I’ll have to pull them out, eternally.
Soldier’s whole family was here for part of a day, and Liam worked in the playhouse, making a pie (so he said) out of flowers and herbs I told him he might pick for the purpose.
Autumn Joy sedum is still looking beautiful, as it has for at least nine months now, and the acanthus is sending out new flower stalks.
As I’ve been writing, and drinking my tea, the sun came out. Now it seems possible that I might get myself out to do some cleanup in the garden. Today I am going to soak my pea seeds, and hope to plant them tomorrow.
I have a feeling that it will always be a challenge, keeping up with all the things I want to do and need to do in the garden, not letting the housework go too neglected, reading and writing and praying, loving my friends and family, communing and working at church…. Life is very full. Today is very full. I looked for a closing quote to express something of what I’m feeling, but could find nothing more suitable than these lighthearted admonitions.
All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther
That one I’ve already taken care of.
Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you. ~Annie Dillard
Over the years I’ve had happy surprises in the garden, and disappointing surprises. Today I have a composite. My initial puzzlement began when I saw this view from my kitchen window; back in the corner by the fence I could see two whitish flower stalks:
I was confused, because they were of a kind I had not planted, so I went out to get a closer look, and it didn’t take many steps in that direction before I saw that yes, they were lovely foxgloves!
I haven’t grown foxgloves for a good while, I did not save any foxgloves plants from my old garden, and in the past when I did grow them it was far from this area of the garden. However, close to this spot I had planted one of the Indigo Woodland Sage plants that I had carefully saved for months in an old watertrough. It was there a couple of months ago, and now it is nowhere. Did a bit of foxglove come with the mulch, as I assume was the case with my surprise horsetail grass on the other side of the garden?
You may also be confused, seeing a decidedly not-foxglove leaf form here. That’s because the foxglove is emerging from behind a currant bush and hiding all its own leaves back there.
I’m sadly surprised that the salvia didn’t make it. It was a vigorous grower under what I considered less favorable conditions in the past; perhaps it didn’t like the shade from the snowball bush, nor the pushy calla lilies. But I know where to get another one if I want to try it somewhere else in the garden.
In the meantime, across the way I have three salvias growing in a sort of triangle: Indigo Spires is huge, the Clary Sage is growing very close to the ground so far, and a little culinary sage plant lives modestly.
Today is windy and cool. I was wearing my flannel nightgown last night and I was still cold. The morning was overcast, though, and not so windy, and that’s perfect for picture-taking. I got a good photo of my acanthus.
“My acanthus” sounds odd, because I haven’t wanted to take ownership of that element of my new landscape that was suggested by the designer. When I had met acanthus in the past I always thought it scraggly and too like a thistle; one I particularly remember by someone’s front door was huge and full of spiderwebs and litter besides. But a year ago I greatly lacked confidence and creativity, so I didn’t know what to suggest otherwise. I let several plants go in and thought without energy about what I might replace them with next fall.
My attitude began to change when a friend told me that acanthus leaves as a decorative form were common in ancient Roman architecture. Before that I was trying think of the plant as a representative of a Scottish thistle, which is also not beautiful to me, but it is meaningful historically, in several ways. Soldier and Joy featured purple thistle flowers as boutineers at their wedding. But honestly, that wasn’t doing it for me.
When the acanthus began to send up its elegant flower stalks, I softened. This morning after I took the picture, I looked on Wikipedia and found that the leaf form is ubiquitous in ancient architecture and popular in more modern art such as William Morris’s wallpaper designs.
And not only the Romans, but Byzantines and Greeks liked to use it. Here is an example from the Hagia Sophia:
So, I am surprised that I have changed my mind about acanthus. I’m glad I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to switch it out. I’m very pleased with my whole garden, actually, and I no longer feel that it belongs to someone else.
It doesn’t seem that most of it is taking three years to “leap,” and it really is full of delights every day. Those Iceland Poppies are certainly a wonder, how they keep blooming here in the middle of June! It’s strange to have the poppies right alongside echinacea; those two normally aren’t normally seen together.
To my consternation, the bindweed is more prolific than ever. I seem to be constantly pulling it out, but it sneaked past me and climbed to the top of a currant branch before I noticed. Very inelegant behavior, that.
The hydrangea I was gifted has nothing in common with this succulent except that they are both in pots on the patio.
There are yarrow fields, a variety of achillea called “terracotta.” Beyond it you can see that I have finally got the olives into their pots, and if one is not level it’s actually the one in the foreground — I guess that means the photo is not level. Anyway, the garden is in pretty good order now, and when you come for a tour you may be surprised to find, no thanks to me, patches of elegance.
This afternoon I returned from a short road trip, and within a few minutes I’d taken a stroll around the garden to see what changes might be evident. I hoped that the newly planted items had made it through the weekend without my attentions, and they had.
The Terra Cotta yarrow has begun to bloom, and it looks pretty against the blue pincushion flowers nearby. In a month the rows of lavender bushes will all be flowering in contrast as well, but already one variety is starting to open enough that a fat black bee was checking it out.
The vegetables have not stopped growing huge — just what magic is in this custom mix of dirt for planting boxes? I’ve never grown or even seen such lush and large leaves of kale and Romaine lettuce.
Just the day before my trip I had set out a flat of flower and vegetable starts, including this feathery fennel and two zinnias. I always like some zinnias mixed in with vegetables. In the garden, that is.
That’s rice straw mulching the fennel; another task I had completed the day before my trip was to wrangle a bale of the stuff out of my Subaru and into the back yard so that I could at least tuck it in around the tiniest plants for protection against drying out while I was gone.
It’s surprising how several of the Iceland poppies are still flowering even in the warming weather, no doubt encouraged by having lately enjoyed several spells of cool rain, and by the well-drained soil that they reportedly appreciate. Usually they don’t make it through the summer around here….
The happiness of being home in my garden again gave me the energy to actually use some of my produce; I picked a dozen kale leaves and cooked a mess of greens in the pressure cooker, to go with my eggs for dinner.