Monday, April 30, 2012

A Fresh Coat of Paint

We had everything we need this weekend, weather-wise, a nice long steady rain on Saturday that will make the plants very happy, and a warm sunny day yesterday. I was working most of yesterday, so I didn't get a lot done outside this weekend. But I did start painting my benches. I use these on the deck for some of my pots. I think I have gotten all three of these benches up in Lancaster County. There is a little antiques store up there that we always visit, a mix of junk and flea market finds, and they always have a good stash of cheap and cheerful benches that can be painted up. I think we have all bought a few at this shop. They last longer if you slap on a new coat of paint every year. I use leftover cans of paint from my many different attempts at painting my front door.

Walt finished fixing one of my birdhouses, and I shellacked all my gourd birdhouses. I try to shellac them every year so they look nice and shiny. This one is my favorite, as it hangs right outside the kitchen window and I like to watch the finches that dart in and out.

Today I am going to start thinking about the plants I need to get up in Lancaster County, as Prudy, Eileen, Judy and I leave on Thursday for our annual plant buying weekend. We all take our own cars so we can load them up. For many years Prudy and I drove together, but the stress of packing all those plants into one car just became too much and I had to buy a bigger car! So now I can drive too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fleurs

Well, just a week ago I was surrounded by my lush, lovely tree peonies. This morning, all that remains are petals everywhere!

And so the garden moves on, and now the regular herbaceous peonies are just coming into bloom. I have a border of them along the garage, five or six plants that my friend Julie gave me when we moved into our house 23 years ago. She was moving, and so, being a good friend,  dug up plants from her yard for my new garden. These peonies are the old-fashioned singles, meaning they are don't have as many petals as other types, they are a simpler peony and not as full. There are also semi-doubles and doubles, which are probably more popular and you see more often. I like these old-fashioned ones.

Just starting to bloom in my front garden are the lychnis (pink) and the baptisia (blue). When the baptisia are in full bloom, the blue is just spectacular.

It's supposed to be a cool and rainy weekend, so probably won't get much done in the garden, especially since I will be working all day on Sunday.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pretty Girl

Wouldn't she look great with some ivy or herbs?  Or maybe some succulents. Love her.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I Walk

As I was out walking this morning, I was thinking about an article I read recently entitled "Why I Walk," and it started me thinking about why walk. Of course I walk for exercise, and for deep breaths of fresh air, and to clear my head, but it also makes me feel more connected to my neighborhood and my town. After so many years of running around and driving everywhere, it feels good to notice things again. I like to see who is planting a vegetable garden and who is painting their front door.  Someone down the street is laying a new cobblestone driveway and across the street they are cutting down a tree.  House painters are freshening up a house and of course the lawn guys are evvverywhere, mowing and trimming.  I love days like this when so much is going on outside, it always reminds me of "Busytown" in the Richard Scarry books we used to read to our kids. The garbage men just waved to me as I walked by and I stopped to talk with a neighbor. But mostly you know I am walking by with my camera, checking to see what is going on in other people's gardens.

And I am kind of obsessed lately with rocks and stone walls lately. Must be those awesome stone walls we saw in Leesburg this past weekend.  This neighbor just had a load of stone delivered, so I will be watching to see what they do. I sure would love a stacked stone wall..

And another neighbor is planting their veggie garden. Makes me miss having one, that lettuce sure looks good. They have peas growing too. Peas! When is the last time you had fresh peas?

 I like this garden border down the street, it always looks so neat and tidy. Those are herbaceous peonies about to bloom.  And they have foxgloves blooming (I couldn't get close enough for a picture),  and any garden that can grow foxgloves has my admiration.

This garden always looks nice, but especially in the spring when their azaleas are blooming.

And then there is the neighbor who added an iron bed to her garden. It might be a tad over the top, but at least she is doing something, right?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


My book group met the other night to discuss Charles Frazier’s latest novel, Nightwoods (he's the author of Cold Mountain).  The story line did not appeal to me that much, but as happens in a good book, I found myself being pulled into the story as it went along. The story is set in the mountains of rural North Carolina, and is about a young woman, Luce, who for reasons we learn later in the story, is living as a recluse in an old abandoned inn, away from the town and away from people.  She is happy living this solitary life, but when her sister Lily is murdered by her abusive husband Bud, Luce is given her sister’s two troubled twin children to care for. The children do not speak, and have a disturbing little habit of setting fires. We can presume that they have been traumatized by witnessing their mother’s murder and who knows what other abuse Bud has inflicted upon them.  As the man from the state tells Luce, they’ve been through “a bad patch.” Thus begins a new life for Luce, doing what she can to help the two children feel safe in the world and survive. She uses nature to comfort them, teaching them about plants and trees, and the stars in the sky. A kind and gentle man comes into Luce’s life and she slowly learns to trust him and they begin to forge a life together with the children. But then Bud resurfaces and scares the children away and up the mountain.

There is not a lot of action in the book, except for this last part when Luce is searching for the children on the mountain at the same time that Bud is hunting them down. Frazier's descriptions are powerful and you can almost smell the pine trees on the mountain, and feel the cold and the damp earth.

I like this kind of book once in a while. Not alot going on, but you feel the characters and care about them even if you don't know very much about them.  Not everyone in the group liked it, but most appreciated something about it and I think we were all glad we read it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Beautiful Day in Leesburg

It is hard to believe that Saturday was such a nice day, because it is freezing this morning, 37 degrees when we woke up, and there is snow to the west of us in the Blue Ridge mountains. This is why you don't plant annuals before May 1! Gillian and I went to the Leesburg Garden Fair on Saturday and it was a beautiful sunny day. We love this fair--we have gone for many years and always find some good garden goodies. There are lots of plants for sale and people walk around with their wagons and fill them up with plants. It was pretty crowded,  probably because it was a beautiful day and rain was forecast for Sunday. The main streets of Leesburg are closed off,  and vendors set up along the streets, along with landscape companies that construct actual gardens, and of course there is music, food, children's activities, etc.  It was a perfect day to wander around Leesburg and look at plants and garden tools, accessories, art, and pretty houses, too. All the shops in town have garden-related signs and flowers in their windows.

We both loved this pretty yellow house on one of the side streets. It has a gorgeous boxwood path up to the front door and stone walls in front of it. Gillian is standing in front of the stone wall .

And you know me and garden markers. Looooved these.

Several booths had gourd birdhouses and even some gourd planters. I can't imagine these will last more than one season. Won't they rot with all that damp soil?

These glass hummingbird feeders were kind of cute.

Some pretty pottery amid the flowers.

We loved this chartreusey spiderwort with the purple salvia behind.

One vendor had a table full of these miniature garden vignettes. So cute.

And here is what I brought home and is now hanging in my yard!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Star of the Show

This is the best week of the year for me as a gardener--my tree peony is blooming! I have three Japanese  tree peonies, but this one is the oldest, biggest, and most spectacular. I planted this one in 1990 when we first made the perennial garden and it has been the showpiece of my front garden ever since. I don't know what it is about these flowers that I love so much--the anticipation, the short period of bloom, the fragrance, their fragile yet heavy flower heads--all the drama--but I really don't think there is a more beautiful flower. I could look at them and admire them all day. And I have been this week. From the moment I come downstairs in the morning and can see them outside the window, I  have been enjoying them (and photographing them) all day long. And let me just say that the day they first start to open is a pretty exciting day in this household.

Tree peonies bloom before the regular herbaceous peonies, and have bigger, heavier, and more fragrant flowers. When fully opened, the blooms are the size of a dinner plate.  A single bloom cut looks beautiful floating in a bowl.

A few blooms began opening last Saturday.

And by Sunday they looked like this. I counted--there are more than 50 blooms.

Tree peonies have a lovely fragrance, too. Another flower that I just want to smoosh my face into!  And they can live for centuries. I'm not aware of any other plant in my yard that is going to live that long!

It rained most of the day yesterday (finally!) and I took some pictures in the rain. I love this one.

Fortunately it was a gentle rain, so I hope the blooms will last another few days. Some years if we get a big storm right after they bloom they can be finished after just a day or so. This has been a good week for the tree peony.

If you are interested in peonies, and tree peonies in particular, a really good website is Peony's Envy. It is the best source I have found about all the different types of peonies, how to plant them, take care of them, transplant, etc. And you can order peonies directly from their catalog. Their farm is located in Bernardsville, NJ, and they have more than 30, 000 peonies in their gardens. Now that is something I would love to see! The National Arboretum downtown has a great collection of tree peonies also. Might have to make a visit there this weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Books On My Nightstand

Because I work in a library, I always have a stack of books next to my bed. Here's what I'm reading now:

The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar--her book The Space Between Us is one of my favs. And hey, she lives in Cleveland!

Out of the Deep I Cry, by Julia Spencer-Fleming--the third in a mystery series I started reading this year about Reverend Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne, who work together to solve a murder in upstate New York. An interesting relationship.

Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History, by Adam Nicolson--someday I hope to visit Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville-West's garden in the English countryside, and this is a history of the gardens by her grandson.

Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain)--reading for my bookgroup, about a young woman who inherits her murdered sister's troubled children, in rural 1960s North Carolina.

Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf--an unusual look at the Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison) and their lives as gardeners, plantsmen, and farmers.

Some Assembly Required, by Anne Lamott--I love all of Anne Lamott's books and her latest is about the birth and first year of life of her grandson (Sam's son!).

Beautiful and Pointless, by David Orr--a guide to modern poetry for people who love poetry.

The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht--a book I've been meaning to read for awhile, about a young woman doctor in a Balkan country and the stories her grandfather told her as a child.

My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor--reading this for book group, non-fiction about a brain scientist who survives a massive stroke and writes about the experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Azalea Time

Azalea 'Delaware Valley White'

It's been so hot here the past few days, reaching almost 90 degrees yesterday, although today is much cooler and pleasant. I can't remember the last time we had rain, and the plants are starting to show it. So much is blooming, but it isn't going to last if we don't get some rain. We have been doing a lot of work in the yard the past few weekends, mainly spreading mulch around the back and side gardens, and I have been working to clear out a lot of weedy vines that were growing along the fence. My neighbor next door doesn't do any yard work and so the weeds growing on their side of the fence make their way over to mine. What to do? I'm tempted of course to sneak over into their yard and cut things down (their weeds have turned into trees by now), but the yard police won't let me do that, so instead I get on a ladder and cut things off at fence level, which probably only forces these weeds to grow even stronger. Sigh.

This is azalea time in Virginia, and while I don't have a lot of azaleas, I do have some and when they are blooming, I wish I had more. I love when people have waves of azaleas, all shades of pink, purple, lavender together. My white ones are beautiful right now, because they are such a pure, pure white. My original plan was to have a "white garden" in this area, as I planted them under a styrax japonica tree, which has little white bell-like flowers in late spring, and also planted white daffodils and probably some other white perennials. Well, 20 years later the tree is still there and the white azaleas have totally overtaken everything else white I planted there. But when they are blooming, it's beautiful.

Azalea 'Mother's Day'
The brunnera is blooming right now, too, and also the new clematis 'Nelly Moser' that I planted just last summer. It's so strange to see clematis blooming already. These plants will probably be crispy memories by July. I am on space shuttle alert this morning--I will be scanning the skies shortly with my camera as the Discovery is supposed to land at Dulles around 10:30 this morning, and it's possible I will be able to see it from my yard. Brooks is going downtown to see it as it flies over D.C. and the National Mall, so hopefully one of us will get a picture. 
Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hello Sun

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety—

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light—
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

--Mary Oliver

I love this poem and have been waiting for a good day to post it. We have had such warm, sunny weather this weekend, and it seemed like a good way to start the week, in happiness, in kindness.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fleurs

Fiddlehead (Fern)
Some things blooming (or almost) around my garden this morning...The regular herbaceous peonies along my garage are all in bud and should bloom this weekend, since it is supposed to get up near 80 degrees. My red tree peony in the back is already out, with 5 or 6 blooms--it's not quite as showy as the pink one in front.

Herbaceous Peonies
Red Tree Peony
Variegated Solomon's Seal

Japanese Painted Fern
Look how lush my hellebores are. Cutting back all those old leaves in February really forces the new growth.  And still blooming. Since late January. A pretty great perennial.

Hellebores still blooming