My particular manzanita tree is not bushy, and only briefly ever was, in its youth. It’s always difficult to get a picture of the whole plant; because of its airy form, whatever is growing behind it shows through and you can’t see how beautiful the tree itself is. As I did yesterday, I typically just show parts of it here on my blog. Here is one view from the past:
And here are several other specimens I saw growing in the southern Sierra Nevada:
As Wikipedia tells us: Manzanita grows in “the chaparral biome of western North America, where they occur from Southern British Columbia and Washington to Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States, and throughout Mexico. Manzanitas can live in places with poor soil and little water.”
Back in the 80’s when I lived in another town, my horticulturist neighbor took the lawn out of her front yard and planted sixteen manzanita bushes there next to the driveway. I was mightily impressed. The last time I drove by, they were still looking beautiful, at least to my eye, which is accustomed to those twisty, even artsy lines. I know that some of you will remember when I went to a lot of trouble to get a branch of manzanita installed in a corner of my living room.
Yesterday when I briefly referred to my own beloved tree, and then posted two pictures from my neighborhood walk of a dramatically different sort of tree I don’t much care for (Atlas Cedar), I didn’t realize how I was making it easy for my readers to get the wrong idea, and when it relates to my favorite, (whom I named “Margarita”) I could not let it go. My late husband and I planted this tree twenty years ago, and you can see a picture of us working on a path just before installing it in my post Changing Views, which tells its history, and shows many images over the years, including of its unusual peeling bark.
Because of the preference of the 105 species and subspecies of Arctostaphylos for dry summers, I have only gravel and succulents under my tree, and hope that she continues to like it here. I tried again to take pictures this morning, and I will finish off with one. (Those are needles of the Canary Island Pine which continually descend to decorate the manzanita like Christmas ornaments.) I’m thankful to have had an excuse to review Margarita’s history for a while this morning, and to tell you once again about my long time friend.
In the middle of Saturday’s graduation party, Pippin and I wandered through a gate into the vegetable garden and soon found ourselves sitting in two chairs that seemed to have been set there just for us introverts, who were perhaps unconsciously following the advice given to introverts as to strategies for party-going.
After the weekend was over and we were both in our separate towns and homes again, in “recovery mode,” it was amusing how we found ourselves still together, after a fashion.
I was sifting through my pictures and notes on my phone and looking through my Weeds of the West, the book Pippin had mentioned when I asked her about a weed growing in her own vegetable garden. I was only a few pages away from finding it when on my computer a message popped up from her with a photograph of that very page.
It is Common Hound’s Tongue, Cynoglossum officinale, or “gypsyflower,” which she said she always pulls out before it makes its terrible stickery burrs — and this very minute, when I looked for photos of them online, I realized that these are the burrs which one September I noticed looked like Mrs. Tiggy Winkle! It’s also the same genus as beautiful wildflowers like the Great Hound’s Tongue I saw in Oregon eight years ago.
There is also another photo of hound’s tongue in my files that I think might be Pippin’s work, because it comes from her neck of the woods and I don’t remember taking it:
If that weed in Pippin’s garden looks strangely familiar to those of you who have been reading my last several blog posts…. That’s because hound’s tongue is in the Boraginaceae Family! Yep, it’s closely related to borage. Well, well.
The first full day I spent at Pippin’s, we took a picnic to the lake before working in the garden. There we also found some plants to look into further. There was a white flowering bush my daughter told me was a ceanothus called Mountain Whitethorn, though its flowers can be blue or pink. We saw a recumbent berry that Pippin identified yesterday as a Dewberry, a name that echoes in my mind from the distant past.
And we all stopped to look at a lovely wild rose,
until Scout in his bare feet ran into some red ants, and from then on we didn’t linger.
Back when we’d arrived for our picnic, before we had even got fully out of the parking lot above the lake path, we were hit by the scent of black locust trees in bloom — so delicious. And because a couple of my readers have told me that the flower petals are edible, we all tried them. They were a little dry and bland compared to pineapple guava petals, in case anyone is interested. 🙂
Right under the boughs of those trees Scout spied what he called “Botany Brooch,” and which I knew as the annoying sticky weed or catchweed, Galium aparine. But if you need a very temporary natural-looking piece of adornment, it lives up to its other nickname of “velcro plant,” and requires no difficult clasp to attach it, even after it has wilted, which happens fast.
From this time forward, I will be less grumpy about this plant with a dozen nicknames, and who knows, you might even see me wearing a bit of it at my garden (work) parties.
When we returned to the garden that afternoon it was to plant Indian corn that Mr. and Mrs. Bread had given from their bounty. Pippin has never tried to raise corn before but she knows people who do, up there where the growing season is not long. It needed to be planted inside the garden fence so the deer won’t eat it; we decided to dig some “hills” here and there where there weren’t too many rocks to extract.
In the course of the afternoon the Professor brought us bags of compost and contributed to the dinner that was simultaneously in process. The children played all over the place, and helped to push the seeds into the earth, and discovered worms to feed to a toad that Pippin had found hiding behind a box. A salamander was unearthed and rinsed off and admired, and eventually let go in a wet area of the yard. I tried to take pictures of the striped bumblebees that are so pretty, compared to the fat black ones that I get down here.
High in an oak tree Ivy has hung a little basket of nest-making supplies for the birds. A flesh-colored button of a fungus was decorating the old stump, evidently the immature stage of what will become a dry and brown puffball type of growth; after I took my picture the children showed me how the little brown balls above would release their powder if broken with sticks.
On the other side of the stump, a splash of brightness — is this also a fungus?
Around the homestead of Pippin’s family, the forest is always sharing its life and beauty. I suppose there will never be an end of things for me to explore when I spend time there. But for now, my own garden realm is waiting for me so I will send in my report and say good-bye for now!
Today was my Slow/Stay at Home/R&R/Catch up Day. That sounds like a lot to expect of one day, especially when you stay up writing until the hands of the clock are telling you it has already become that day, and therefore you will start out short on sleep.
But what a blessing it turned out to be! The first gift was a phone call from my grandson and his wife, the parents of my great-granddaughter, and that was heartwarming. I loved talking about maternity care — what she got as well as cultural trends — with Izzie, who is bouncing back with the resilience of youth and those hormones a woman gets a good dose of in childbirth. The whole family and her mom were walking at a park when Roger decided to phone me and we had our satisfying visit.
And then a spell of plant identification. 🙂 Yes, and I didn’t even have to go out and discover the plant myself. My farmer friend from whom I buy lamb every year had posted a picture of flowers on Instagram, glad to see them in the pasture before the sheep ate them. She didn’t say their name so I assumed she didn’t know, but they were so pretty, I wanted to find out.
I asked Pippin’s help, but she didn’t know them, either, so I looked in the Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest guide, even though the authors don’t try to include my area of California in their book; I might still find a clue. And I did see one very similar, which was enough to take to the Internet and search with. I’m pasting the Wikipedia photo here, almost identical to the farmer’s, of downingia concolor or calicoflower, which is in the Campanulaceae Family. Aren’t they darling? I wonder if the sheep have eaten them by now…
Kasha, or roasted buckwheat groats, is one of my favorite things to eat on fast days. I like to cook a potful so that I have several servings on hand, but I had run out of that a couple of weeks ago. This package that was given to me by a friend is nearly used up now; it cooks up the way I like it and has the best flavor, so I think I will try to get this type from now on. I got to eat kasha for lunch, and stashed three containers in the fridge and freezer.
I had told myself that I would not read or write blogs today, since I did just do that last night, and because I wanted to catch up on one or two of the many other things that I’m behind on. Lately it’s become R&R just to wash the dishes, and when I was washing up my kasha pot I just kept going, and ended up spending a couple of hours on the kitchen. What took the longest was giving my stove top and range hood a thorough cleaning of the sort is hasn’t had for ages. After that experience, my hands told me they needed a manicure.
The sun came out — but not until 6:00 p.m. But after bending over my housework all that time, and feeling not rushed, the sunshine was all the encouragement I needed to get outside. I would just take the easiest stroll, no hurry.
Once I was in the neighborhood where I took pictures for my “Roses on My Path” series a long time ago that doesn’t feel that long ago (before my husband was even sick), I remembered that I wanted to go back to the house I called the Rose House back then, to find whether anything had changed.
I found it, and the display was more opulent than ever. This is the house where the roses do not appear to be cared for, though I continue to think they must be getting water from somewhere to make it through our rainless summers. All the roses on this post are from that house, and a link to the previous post might show up as one of the “related” posts below.
They still have the mailbox with stylistic roses painted on it, but now it is hidden deep under a broad spray of blooms hanging down. I think maybe that bush seems twice as tall as before because it has climbed into a tree behind it.
The profusion of flowers is probably a result of the rain of the last two years. The species are very special. I can’t tell you much about them, except that I find them exquisite, but many of my readers will know things just by looking. This time I noticed an identifying tag at the base of one bush that has the trunk of a tree. It was grown from a cutting taken in 2001; how long, I wonder, was the rose bush cared for before it was allowed to grow wild?
I feasted my eyes and my nose for quite a while, walking and gawking up and down and wishing I were in an official rose garden with a proper bench. I wanted to sit for a while to gaze at their loveliness, bursting out through the tangled canes and deadwood. Eventually there was nothing to do but go home. I felt thoroughly loved through those roses.
But when I got here I had to write after all, while it is yet today.
It’s one way I have of thanking God for all His wonderful gifts
that pour down even on — or is it especially on? — a slow day.
Liam was with me for a couple of days last week. He is almost six and suddenly reads with astonishing fluency. Reading is downright fun for him, I guess that’s why, and the more you do something you love, the better you get at it. I was pleased to realize that he would be just the person at just the stage to appreciate The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, so I searched through my bookshelves to find it. We read it together with many giggles.
The artwork, by David Diaz, is much more pleasing to me than that in The Pig in the Spigot, another of Wilbur’s books for children which I wrote about here once. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet, with a short verse musing on what would happen to our beloved world if that letter were no more.
After reading the book, then eating dinner, we went on one of my creek walk loops. Immediately we began to practice our mutual love of plants and their names. My grandson is starting to understand that I don’t know every plant, and our nature study is more of a joint effort now, with him not saying, “What is this?” so much, and saying, “Grandma, look!” more.
But he brought up the subject of the alphabet also, as we walked along, saying, out of the blue, “If there were no letter N, we wouldn’t have pain! or lanes! — or extensions!”
Our walk took longer than I planned, because I had forgotten about how it’s our habit to meander and pick things, as I had started out with Liam in Flowery Town years ago.
We ate quite a few new-green wild fennel fronds on this walk, and even some slightly older ones, comparing the flavor. And several times he reminded me that we must take the route home that passes by the pineapple guava hedge, because he was eager to taste the flowers I’d mentioned.
We ate flower petals, and got to bed late, and the next morning the boy picked more right next to my garden dining spot, which he added to our breakfast feast. Rarely is it truly the right weather to eat breakfast outdoors here in my city, and this may have been my first time to do it with company so agreeable.
The middle of this second day was spent at my church, where the end of the children’s week-long summer program featured a long session of water play, and Liam was delighted to get all wet and to eat a popsicle.
Even here, he drew my attention to a tree blooming right above, which I’m sure I’d never noticed before. Our rector said he planted it himself “way back.”
While children were settling down for the Bible lesson that morning, another boy showed me this fly that he was admiring on his hand. I think Liam was already waiting patiently on the other side of the circle so he didn’t see it.
Later that afternoon I had planned to have him help me clean the greenhouse, but then realized he’d like better to pick sweet peas to take home to his mother. I have only a little patch that I didn’t pull out yet. He was diligent about that task for nearly an hour, and collected a large jarful. I made headway on the greenhouse, and we took breaks to study the bumblebees that only recently decided to mob those flowers.
One day we had read Monarch and Milkweed, and the other, I showed him my milkweed plants; the Showy Milkweed is in a jungle behind the fig tree, where I hope, if Monarch caterpillars hatch out, the birds might not notice them…?
Liam helped me to see my flowers without a magnifying glass. As we were looking at some tiny succulent flowers, and I was trying to get a good picture of them, I began to notice little black dots on them. “Are those holes in the petals, can you see?” I asked him. He squatted down and looked hard, and told me that they were things on the ends of hairs coming out of the middle of the flower. Ah, stamens! When I enlarged the photo, I could see, too:
We washed rocks! Liam had been examining and organizing one of my collections of pebbles and stones and such in the house, and out here I had him put these larger stones from the Sierras and from the Sacramento River through some sudsy water and a rinse, so they could wait presentably until I find a use for them.
What other things did we both like to do while he was visiting? Eat ice cream cones, and judge matchbox car races, and read Winnie-the-Pooh. Many times during his last hours with me, lines from Pooh or The Disappearing Alphabet would come to his mind and he would say them again, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, knowing I liked them, too. He especially liked these from the page about the letter L:
“Any self-respecting duck would rather be extinct than be an uck.”
I was so grateful to Liam’s parents for making this intimate visit work out. Next time I see him, he will be more grown up, and a different boy. But probably not all that different. I hope we can always find a way to share our love for words and plants and many more details and gifts of this vast world in which our loving Father has placed the two of us as grandma and grandson.