Tag Archives: salvia

Water, watercress, and catsear.

Dandelions and false dandelions – Over the last couple of years the false kind, or catsear, Hypochaeris radicata L., has flourished in dead or dying lawns in our town. Many people have let their lawns go, because of the drought, and there’s no recovering them now just because the winter was wet.

The catsear is prettier, I think, because the flowers are on long stems that wave in the breeze. I had them before my re-landscaping project began, and several of my neighbors still have them in abundance; here I am showing Ray’s place, as good as it ever looks, because he never does anything but mow once or twice a year….

And below, Vera’s front yard. Unlike Ray, Vera likes to garden, and she gave me my aloe saponaria start many years ago.

I never see real dandelions anymore. They must need more water, and the recent conditions are letting the catsear dominate.

I walk by this rose bush several times a week. It’s not cared for, and looks generally bad, but on this particular morning there was one rare perfect bloom proudly standing out from the mess.

The most interesting thing I’ve seen in a long time on my walks was two Asian women down at the creek gathering watercress.

And the prettiest thing was bees on Russian sage. I can’t resist trying to photograph one more bee on one more flower, especially if it is a pairing of insect and flower that I haven’t captured before. I was so happy on my walk this morning, I didn’t want it to end, so I changed my route to add a few more blocks, and that’s how I happened to see these bees.

 

Back in my own garden, more plants are blooming. Kim gave me hollyhock seeds three years ago, and I planted them in my new greenhouse last fall and transplanted them to a spot that I think must be too shady, because the plants are diminutive – but the first bloom is out!

 

 

When designing my backyard garden, we deliberately planted the salvia near the dodonea, to get this color contrast. It’s working right now!

Above: fig tree, mock orange, and sea holly.

I have two kinds of lamb’s ears: the old ones that were propagated from my old garden, and which are all sending up long flower spikes right now.

…and new ones bought at a nursery, which have broad leaves, more green, and may not flower much. Lots of people have told me that their lamb’s ears don’t. But one of them is sneaking out a flower, only to send it on to the sidewalk to risk a trampling.

June has brought warmer temperatures, and I hope to spend more time in the garden again. Yesterday my dear godmother came over and we did sit eating our ice cream where we could hear the bees humming and the see the goldfinches at the feeder.

And we could smell the sweet peas! I ended up picking four bouquets of them yesterday, including one to send home with her. I also had to trim back some of the stems to keep them from squishing the pole beans. So this may be the peak of the bloom. There’s not much room for me to grow anything else just yet, because it’s the Year of the Sweet Peas!

Breakfast by the creek.

It’s invigorating to get outdoors in the springtime, at least, when we aren’t having cold winds and cloudy days. Last Saturday when Liam and Laddie were here, they collected manzanita berries from my bush and made pies.

Every time I go to church lately, something new is bursting with color. A type of salvia I haven’t seen elsewhere has flowers that glow like jewels:

And the California poppies! I feel that own garden will not be truly complete until these orange poppies are blooming in it — but I am a little afraid to throw out the seed and have them grow like weeds.

This morning, I took a walk by the creek. You might guess from my shadow that I am shaped like a bug. But I assure you, I more closely resemble a human.

From the bridge I heard a toad croaking;
blue jays were busy about something, hopping around in the trees.
Many other birds were singing and chirping. I don’t know who they were.

blackberry flower

I had set out before having breakfast, or so much as a glass of water. Uh… forgot that I can’t do that anymore. The squirrel scrabbling up and down a tree contrasted sharply with my slowing gait.

Besides the many wild things growing along the path, there are the backyard plants that have climbed over the fences. Like this trumpet vine:

 

privet
honeysuckle

Oh, the banks of honeysuckle were sweet! But I’m afraid they didn’t make a proper energizing breakfast, no matter how deep the whiffs I inhaled. And I stopped so many times to frame pictures with my phone’s camera, my excursion grew longer and longer…

Salsify is opening its puffy blooms.

I think the Queen Anne’s Lace must bloom six months of the year. It is already bearing fully opened flowers, as well as these darling younger ones:

When I finally got home, it didn’t take long to satisfy my body’s need for fuel.
My soul had already had a full breakfast!

Elegant Surprises

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:

gl P1040703 foxglove view

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, thegl P1040708 foxglove behind ribes 6-16y 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.

gl P1040717 3 sagesIn 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.

gl acanthus 6-2015
acanthus mollis

 

 

 

“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:

by Gryffindor, on Wikipedia Commons

gl Iceland poppy June 14 2016

 

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.

gl P1040713 erigeron fleabane
erigeron

gl P1040712 bindweed on ribes

 

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.

 

 

 

gl P1040699

The hydrangea I was gifted has nothing in common with this succulent except that they are both in pots on the patio.

gl P1040714 yarrow fields

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.

I hope I learned my lesson.

Last week I took some time to dig weeds out of my front yard flower beds. Just getting my hands in the dirt gave me visions of trailing butternut squash vines and sunflowers turning their sunny faces to the summer sky. Somehow I missed the other part of the picture that must come earlier in the sequence of events: me jumping on the shovel and sweating in the midday heat, kneeling over my tomato holes that had been custom-filled with various composts and manures and topsoils lugged home in bags from Home Depot.

P1130200

Before that hard work began, however, my first visions were expanded when I visited the plant sale I love, which happened almost the next day. Mrs. Bread went along with me and I came home with more kinds of plants than I had originally planned. Ha! No surprise, is that?

P1130201The timing of the sale seemed so convenient, but now as I think about it, it was unwise of me to buy plants before preparing the soil. It was the end of April and everything seemed urgent, especially once the baby plants were in my line of vision and begging to get out of their little pots. The pressure was on to make places for them, and I had to go against all good sense and nearly sacrifice myself trying to make good on my investment.

Yes, in my heart I do still know how to be a gardener. But in the flesh? My body is sending messages that we needed some help with the grunt work and I better never do that kind of thing again. Tonight I can barely walk, and am typing while soaking my feet, poor tender feet that were trying to make do with a shovel when I needed a post-hole digger. All the joints and sinews and head and muscles are crying, “Enough! More than enough!”

mystery salvia plant-1
my mystery salvia

This unusual degree of pain and suffering is a result of trying to do too many things in one summer. I should have just said, “This summer I want to take out the swimming pool. Next summer I can have a garden.” But oh, no, I have to do both. If the back yard is likely to become unavailable, I’ll just use the lawn area in the front (which was supposed to die last summer, but didn’t). If I had done as a widow woman should, and consulted with someone, anyone, before forging ahead, they might have reminded mP1130199e that I could buy very nice tomatoes at the farmers’ market, and that breaking sod is something one does with a plow.

Well, live and learn. I hope my plantings are successful, but even if they aren’t, a couple of good things have come from my recent escapades. I bought a cute little Garden Dump Cart today to haul things around the property. And when we were at the plant sale, I saw a salvia that strongly resembled my mystery salvia that I wrote about in this post. I took a picture of it and after researching at home I think it must truly be Indigo Woodland Sage. How satisfying to finally know the name of the stalwart perennial that graces my world.

The best thing about the plant sale day was not the vast nursery offerings we meandered through, but getting to tour around Mr. and Mrs. Bread’s beautiful and homey garden. And when we got back from the sale she cut our 6-packs of dill, cutting celery and Titan sunflowers in two, so we could share.

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At 9:00 p.m., it’s still 70° on my patio, and I have the windows open. I will feel better tomorrow, after a good sleep. Now there is nothing else making me hurry, and  I plan to slow down again and enjoy the springtime. Happy May!