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.
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:
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…
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!
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.
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.
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?
The 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!”
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 me 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.
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!
What is so exciting about autumn? If things are slowing down and dying, wouldn’t that be depressing instead?
Maybe the season just finds us ready for change, glad to move on from the laziness of summer to the harvest and to tidying up, getting ready for the winter….The heat is not so enervating, and the air is fresher and not heavy.
In autumn, being a gardener, I get close up and intimate with the dirt and the plants’ roots, as there are so many perennials that need trimming and the planting beds cleared out. Today I reached my hands and pruners down through the swaying leaves of the lemon balm, to where its roots run all tangled together with oregano just below the surface of the ground, and their earthy and herby smells rose up and quite affectionately came right into my nose! I always leave the door open for them.
I pruned the spent flower shoots and leaves of the “mystery” salvia, revealing all the clumps of volunteer plants with their fresh new leaves. Better Homes and Gardens has a salvia guide online, but I didn’t have any more success than before in finding my plant among all the 30+ varieties they show. [update: it has been identified as Indigo Woodland Sage.]
I picked the last of the pimientos and fried them all up with slivers of garlic. Here is one of the loveliest so you can see how big and heart-shaped they typically are.
Two friends showered us with goodies from their gardens in the last few days, including things we didn’t have in our own, like lemon cucumbers and green beans and hot peppers. Tonight I managed to deal with quite a bit of the bounty and include it in a yummy dinner. The Yellow Brandywine tomato vine is loaded with fruit and now it is all ripening late. So sweet.
One last zinnia picture: This is one of the trailing type with blooms only two inches in diameter. When I look at it closely the detail grabs me. It almost looks as though tiny yellow stitches are holding the petals on. Orange is a good and even arousing color to go with the season; maybe it will help to energize me for the remaining garden work. Happy Autumn!