Monday, October 31, 2011

Frosty Morning

We woke up to the smell of skunk this morning, so instead of fretting about that I am concentrating on how pretty my plants look with the frost this morning.  Of course this is the end of the line for some, like begonias, coleus, and sweet potato vine, which have all collapsed.  It is supposed to warm up today to the 50s and so it should be a great night for Halloween.  I have yoga tonight after work so Walt will be doing the trick or treat duty.

Sedum and Asters
Japanese Fern
Lambs Ears
And goodbye to the coleus

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MCM 2011

Today was the Marine Corps Marathon and Walt ran the 10K. He has run 4 full MCMs in the past but decided to take it easy this year and he said it was great. It was a cold but sunny morning and they ran along the Mall and across the 14th St. Bridge into Crystal City and then ended up at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington. And then home for pumpkin pecan pancakes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Yes it's sleeting right now and I have been out on the deck taking pictures in my pajamas. It's really cold and has been raining all night and now it is turning into sleet and snow.  I am heading into work today,  a good day to be warm and comfy in the library.
Chilly frog!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Making a List

Since I am trying to be a serious gardener these days, I am making a list of things I should be doing this fall to prepare my garden for the winter. Here is my list so far:

  • Pull out annuals in the garden 
  • Empty pots 
  • Cut down peony foliage and destroy (wait till after first frost)
  • Cut down anemone foliage and destroy (after frost)
  • Cut back all nepeta and lambs ears
  • Cut phlox down to a few inches
  • Plant some new bulbs
  • Move succulents into garage
  • Edge garden beds one last time
  • Bring amaryllis, christmas cactus in
  • Clean and sharpen Felco pruners
  • Rake and mulch leaves
  • Take in gourd birdhouses
  • Bring in watering cans
  • Keep weeding
  • Weed some more

Felcos cleaned and oiled

I did make a big mistake yesterday and pruned some of my lacecap hydrangea, but I couldn't help it. It has grown so big we can hardly get through the gate anymore, so even though I knew I shouldn't be doing it now,  I cut off a lot of the bottom branches. Then I felt bad. I did resist cutting back any roses, they should definitely be left until fall. This stuff in the fall is mostly cleanup--the real work comes in the spring.

Gourd birdhouses need cleaning and a coat of shellac
A favorite birdhouse awaiting repair

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Around the Corner

I pass this corner in my neighborhood 100 times a day, whether its driving by or taking a walk. And aren't these roses pretty? This is just a section of them, they are planted all along the fence, and all around the corner. I'm not sure what kind of rose they are--a shrub rose or landscape rose probably, or could they be a knockout? They seem too big for knockouts. They sure are in their prime right now.  They make me happy every time I go by, and I thank the gardener for planting something so pretty for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Last night was my book discussion group that I lead at the library. We had previously read Elizabeth Gilbert's first book, Eat, Pray, Love,  the account of the author's own year- long personal voyage towards healing after a bitter and miserable divorce. Committed is a sort-of sequel to that book, in which she is struggling with the idea of marriage to Felipe, the Brazilian man she meets in Bali at the end of Eat, Pray, Love (in the "Love" section, of course).  While they have made a commitment to stay together forever, neither wants to get married again. But Felipe is not a U.S. citizen and when he is not allowed back in the country, they are forced to consider marriage if they want to be together. During a year in exile while they try to sort out the bureaucratic issues before they can even get married, the author begins exploring the history and sociology of marriage, reading books written by experts, interviewing people of different cultures throughout Southeastern Asia, and studying the marriages of her family and friends. This book is really the author's meditation on marriage and her coming to terms with making the decision to marry again. I thought the book was okay, not great, and I was greatly surprised how many people in our group really liked it.

One of our regulars, a man who was divorced after 20 years, felt it was a thoughtful look at marriage and the complications of divorce and he liked how the author was taking such a careful look at marriage.  Another couple (the husband is 85, the wife maybe mid-70s) read it together and appreciated the author's in depth analysis of marriage and felt that it would be a good book for young people to read who are considering marriage. Coincidentally, this couple first met in Bali when he worked for an international company and she was the daughter of a Bolivian diplomat. They just celebrated their 50th anniversary and both were so articulate and forthcoming with their thoughts. They are new to our group and we all liked them!  We discussed arranged marriages and why they are so successful, and what marriages mean in other cultures.

A few people did not like the book at all, found the author annoying and egocentric. Why does she have to analyze everything, she overthinks, she whines, etc.  I felt a little of that, although as someone who overthinks things, I should be more sympathetic. Others appreciated how open the author was with her feelings. All in all, most thought it was a good book and worth reading. It was another interesting discussion and always a surprise to see how everyone sees things differently.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Orchid Emergency

I have several orchids and I take good care of them, watering regularly, fertilizer, etc. The other day when I went to water this one it was covered in ants. Ugh. I had to immediately take it outside, pull it out of the pot and discard all the orchid mix, rinse off the orchid roots and then I let it sit for a day in the garage to make sure all the ants were gone. Then it was back in a new pot with fresh orchid mix and hopefully it will be blooming soon, after that little shock to its system. This one has beautiful big white orchid flowers. I used to be afraid of orchids, all those weird root thingys, but they are actually very hardy. And in case you are wondering, yes, I have quarantined the other two orchids and am keeping a close watch.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finally, Pumpkins

I feel like I have been looking for pumpkins for weeks. The places I usually go to didn't have any this year, and the minis are expecially hard to find. On Sunday afternoon, Walt and I drove out past Leesburg and towards Purcellville,  thinking we would surely find a pumpkin stand there. A place we usually stop  for apples had a pitiful selection (so we bought a pie instead).  We kept going and ended up in Berryville at a farm market which actually had the fifth largest pumpkin in the world on display, 1600 pounds! They brought it up from North Carolina and had to use a forklift to move it. I can't believe I don't have a picture of it. You'll have to take my word for it.

Love these warty pumpkins

We took a few back roads and ended up driving by a Christmas tree farm that we used to go to when the kids were little,  on Snickers Gap Road. Isn't that a great name? The farm looked so pretty--I love the baby Christmas trees, and all that green.

And of course I had to look back and find a picture of us cutting down our Christmas tree at that very same farm, over 20 years ago.

Walt and Brooks, 1989

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Progressive Dinner, Well Not Really

Mary with a really big wine glass
Saturday night we had our progressive dinner at Lorraine and Jerry's, although it turned out to be more of a potluck since we decided not to "progress" to other people's houses.  Probaby a wise decision with all the wine we were drinking. Gillian made some spiced nuts and a dip for apps, I made Ina's butternut squash salad, Lorraine made chicken cutlets in a walnut-parmesan sauce over couscous, Betsy made her tiramisu toffee cake, and Mary brought a cheese course. Phew! That was a lot of food and a good time too. We did go across the street to look at Betsy's new kitchen, which turned out great.

Betsy cutting her yummy cake

It is beautiful out today, sunny and cool. Walt is cutting the grass and I will do a little cleanup outside and then we are going to take a drive and look for some pumpkins. They're not easy to find this year. All the rain we have had has resulted in a pumpkin shortage! Who knew.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Virginia Creeper

I have had this vine growing on my fence for a few years and it is finally turning into something substantial so I looked it up to see what it is and found it is Virginia Creeper. It just appeared, I did not plant it, so I was a little suspicious.  I like the look of it, though,  it's not too overwhelming (not yet) and I like how it turns this burnt red color in the fall. I know, I know, I shouldn't let it grow up my window, but it's so pretty, I think I'll leave it for now...and pretend I live in an ivy-covered cottage.

And look at this pretty garden I passed yesterday morning on a walk. Love that purple grass. I'm not a fan of grasses, but I sometimes like them in other people's gardens.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sugar Maples

I love these sugar maples at a church nearby so much that I stopped the other day and took some pictures. When we first moved here 30 some years ago (how can it possibly be that long?)  there was a huge sugar maple on a corner in town and I loved that tree and looked forward to driving by it in the fall for many years. Development took its ugly toll, however,  and the tree has now been gone for a long time.  I was with some friends recently and asked them, "Do you remember that big tree on Monroe Street that was so pretty in the fall," and surprisingly several did remember it and loved it too. Even a tree can live on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Paris Wife

I just finished The Paris Wife, a book I have meaning to read for awhile. It is the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, who he meets in Chicago in 1920 and marries shortly after. This book is about their life in Paris, where Hemingway is a struggling young writer, not yet well known, and where he meets all the big names of that age, F. Scott Fitzgerald (and his wife Zelda), John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, James Joyce,  Gertrude Stein, Picasso.

I love that era in Paris and have read a lot about that time, especially Hemingway's own memoir of the early years in Paris, A Moveable Feast.  When I lived in Paris, I loved visiting some of the cafes those writers used to frequent, like The Dome and The Select, and especially Closerie Des Lilas, which was Hemingway's favorite place to write. I have a picture of Patty at the Closerie des Lilas, which we thought was just about the most romantic place ever.

Ernest and Hadley have a passionate relationship and seem to be a stable couple, well, at least compared to some of the other slightly crazy people in Paris. There is a lot of drinking absinthe, angst about his writing, travels to Switzerland and Italy and Spain (he was obsessed with the running of the bulls at Pamplona).  But hanging over the story is what we know is going to happen, their marriage is going to fail,  Ernest is going to fall in love with Hadley's friend Pauline. Really? You kind of want to shake Hadley and tell her to stand up for herself, tell Pauline to get lost, but she doesn't. Her life has revolved around Ernest and his writing and that's what makes the story so sad.

I think it's an interesting tactic for an author to take a real person and fictionalize their story, trying to imagine a life through that person's eyes. Nancy Horan did this so well with Loving Frank (about Frank Lloyd Wright).  Of course I always loved Hemingway's writing style and I loved reading how the author shows his influence on Hadley, when she says after eating at a cafe in Spain, "I found I was hungry and that it all tasted very good to me."

It is not a great book, but it is enjoyable and if you liked the writers of that era, you will probably like it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Roses

Aren't they pretty? I think fall roses are the best, they seem so happy to have cooler weather and some rain and just want to bloom themselves silly. I took this picture with a new (to me) app on my phone called Instagram.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gardening Edging, and Obsession

I have kind of thing about garden edging.  Some might say an obsession. I hate a messy edge.  My garden boy has a good system down with the shovel after all these years, of digging the edge. He does it in the spring and then maybe once or twice over the growing season. Here he is doing a fall edging. He uses a square spade and goes down vertically with the spade about 2 inches and then pulls the handle towards him and pushed the dirt forward. I think it looks pretty good.

Around my front perennial garden I mostly use a rock edging.  What I really like is stacked stone, someday that's what I'll have around my garden.

And of course I love this slate edging (at Chanticleer). I notice a lot of public gardens have this type of edging.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time Out for Willards

It has been a beautiful weekend, unfortunately I had to work yesterday but today we have been getting organized in the house and getting rid of lots stuff for the town's fall Cleanup Day tomorrow. That's one of the benefits of living here, they have a spring and fall cleanup and you can put out just about anything and they will haul it away. It feels good to clean out stuff from the basement and the garage, old printers, big tv, This End Up coffee table (remember them?), old mattresses,  and lots of other junk we have amassed over the years. It's funny how you have this desire to divest yourself of things as you get older. What's really funny is to watch out the windows and see people drive by looking at your stuff.  A guy out walking his dog just picked up a wicker table I had put out.

We did some work outside too and Walt got started clearing out the siberian iris and hosta from my perennial garden that have just overtaken the area around my tree peony. They have to go!  I have also been trying to organize my pictures this weekend. What a job that is, and I still am trying to figure out the best system. The highlight, however, was having our favorite barbecue from Willards--it is the best!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Garden Cleanup and Re-Seeding

I have started the emptying and cleaning of my pots this week. I like to do it on a sunny day so I can wash them out and scrub them and let them dry in the driveway. I still have the big ones to do.  Look what I found in a few of my pots:

Potatoes from my sweet potato vines! It's always such a surprise to dig these up. I wonder if they are edible? I chop up most of the foliage from the plants I pull out of the pots and put them back in my garden. It's always fun to see random things pop up next year, like this little impatiens plant in a corner of my garden. 

And these impatiens and coleus that popped up near my back faucet. All these were self-seeded except for the one pot. Vincas are good self-seeders, too.

Oh, and I decided to empty my front pots and plant mums. They were such well-shaped and pretty plants, I couldn't resist.

I reluctantly pulled the zinnias (I love my zinnias, but they were looking pretty tired) by the mailbox and replanted with these cute ornamental kale plants and some pansies. I think I need a few more pansies, but I like the colors. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Garden Chairs

I am always on the lookout for interesting garden chairs. Here are just a few from Chanticleer that I really liked. All the furniture in the garden is made by the staff at Chanticleer.  Loved the shape of these buttery yellow chairs.

And of course, twig chairs, have always loved those.


These French blue chairs were so pretty and inviting.

And how about this cool sofa and chairs made from stone?

Probably my favorite chairs are these simple "Wave Hill" chairs that Margaret Roach has on her farm. They are built from a pattern that you can purchase from Wave Hill.

 The Wave Hill Chair, a signature product offered through The Shop, is based on a chair designed by the acclaimed Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld in 1918 and now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Compatible with virtually any architectural form, the Wave Hill Chair provides a welcome alternative to the Adirondack chair and its various redwood counterparts. (From the Wave Hill catalog.)