Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lavender Gets a Mid-Summer Trim

I have been wanting to cut back my lavenders but it has just been so hot. So this weekend I got out there early in the morning and gave them all a good trim. I like my garden all blowsy and wild, but after awhile, it kinda drives me crazy. Here's the before picture: Pretty, but you can hardly walk down the front path.

And here we are after the trim. Much better. I trim them by about a third--they will bloom again in a few weeks, and I think it is good for the plants to open them up a bit and let the sun get into the brownish interior--I think it makes for a healthier plant.

So much better, a neat and tidy walkway. Now I just need to trim those anemones on the right. And you know I'm going to scatter all those lavender seeds all over the garden, hopefully will get some new plants next year.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My First Bonsai

My first bonsai
I pass by this nursery on Route 7 every day on my way to work,  and had heard that they offer a bonsai workshop. So I decided to sign up for their bonsai class this past Saturday morning. There were about 15-18 people in the class, mostly young professionals in their 20s and 30s, even some couples together. I was surprised--I was picturing little old men--but there seems to be quite an interest in bonsai!

We were given a little packet with some scissors, wire, bonsai potting mix, a chopstick, and then we had to pick our pot...

And then we got to choose a plant. There were 3 types of plants-- one was a type of jade plant, another a thin leaf something, and finally a Fukien tea, which is what I chose. It has tiny little boxwood-type leaves and gets small white flowers.

Fukein Teas in foreground
First we wired a small piece of screen over the hole in the bottom of the pot, to prevent the fine soil mix from washing out. Then we placed a long piece of wire through the bottom so that we could wire the the roots of the plant securely into the pot.

Before we put the plant in the pot, the bonsai master showed us how to prune and trim the plant so that we could begin seeing the structure and the branching, which is the beauty of a bonsai plant. This is done mostly by pinching off leaves. My plant was so tiny there wasn't a lot I needed to trim! And by the way, the chopstick is for gently separating the roots when you place it in the pot, and then for tamping down the soil.

Et voila, my first bonsai. I know, it's teeny, but it will grow (I hope), very slowly. This little slip of a plant is already 4 years old. It was fun, and the bonsai master was very knowledgeable and helpful.  I have always admired bonsai, and love to visit the amazing collection at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Fleurs: Roses Rebloom

My roses are reblooming now--a little smaller, and not quite as showy, but hey, anything blooming in this weather is pretty great, I think. They seem to have survived the Japanese beetles as well. I didn't see  one beetle this morning when I was taking these pictures. The blue flower is a new salvia I planted this year,  Salvia 'Black and Blue.' I have been trying to get a good picture of it, without much success, to show it's dramatic electric blue flowers and the blackish buds and stems. These annual salvias are garden-savers in the heat of the summer, as they bloom and bloom, and I have a bunch of these blue ones blooming, and some coral-pinkish flowered ones, also. The butterflies and hummingbirds love them. I think the blue salvia is salvia guarantica, and the pinkish ones are salvia coccinea. They are sometimes hard to find in the spring, but I hunt them down because they are so great in the late summer. Very drought tolerant. I think they are classified as tender perennials, but I treat them as annuals and re-plant every spring.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Defending Jacob

 This a disturbing novel about a family in Massachusetts-- the dad is an assistant district attorney in their small town-- and how their comfortable suburban world is changed forever when a boy in town is found stabbed to death and their 14-year old son Jacob is accused of the murder.  Andy, the father, is of course put on leave and begins his own investigation to prove his son's innocence. The victim is one of the popular boys in school and had been bullying Jacob for being a geek, for being different. We are given worrisome glimpses into Jacob's childhood, with bursts of anger and cruelty since he was a toddler. Jacob's friends, at first unwilling to talk, gradually reveal a side of Jacob that was unknown to his parents. And so begin the questions: Did they overlook their son's problems, did they really know him? How far will they go to protect him? Was the behavior that they dismissed as that of a "rambunctious" little boy really something more ominous? Is their geeky, secretive teenage son hiding something? The idea of a genetic disposition to violence is introduced in the trial as well, something else to think about. Jacob's parents are forced into the horrible situation of wondering whether their son could possibly be capable of this crime.  While the father's belief in his son's innocence is unwavering (in denial?), his mother is not so sure, and the effect of all this conflict on their marriage is devastating.

The story is woven around a narrative of the father being questioned before a grand jury, the story of their family, and the courtroom trial of Jacob, and you are never really sure where the story is headed. I was bouncing back and forth, never convinced of Jacob's guilt or innocence until the very end. This is a book you will find hard to put down, because you want and yet are afraid to see how it ends. It is a very sad story about a family destroyed, and because I read it during the time of the shooting massacre in Colorado, I couldn't help but think about that family and the nightmarish questions they must be asking themselves about their son. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beautiful July Morning

Today is a beautiful day, a brief respite from the hot humid July we have been having. I was outside at 8 am, checking out the gardens, doing some deadheading and assessing things. It has been so hot that I really haven't been outside that much, so it felt good to be out with my plants again! The rain over the weekend helped a lot, so things don't look too bad. I was noticing that even my million bells are still looking good. Usually they are crisped up and gangly by now. I loved this white snapdragon that is blooming. I have a lot of pink and purple flowers, but I think white flowers might be my favorites. Note to self: Plant more white flowers next year.

The anemones are getting ready to bloom, so in a week or so there should be a sea of pink blooms. I think things are still ahead of schedule, because they don't usually bloom until mid to late August. The pots are still looking good--the coleus is taking over.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Walking Lake Anne

Walt and I took a walk along Lake Anne on Sunday and I loved how these flowers were planted between the cement blocks along the dock. Isn't that a good idea? Just shows how you can plant something in a small space and make a big impact. We walked through a neighborhood of homes right on the lake and peeked into their lakeside spaces. Would be a fun place to live...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meadowlark Wedding

Briana and Riley

We had a busy weekend, beginning on Friday night with the wedding of my dear friend Lorraine's daughter Briana, which was held at Meadowlark Gardens. I was so excited to attend my first wedding at Meadowlark, which as you know is one of my very favorite places. The weather was threatening rain, so the ceremony was held inside at the last minute, which ended up being just beautiful, with huge windows and views of the gardens, and twinkly lights behind the bride and groom. The rain held off so that the bride and groom could have pictures outside, and we were able to enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres on the patio and people could walk around and view the gardens.

Lorraine and Betsy
It was a lovely wedding, just the right size, so it felt very personal and intimate. Great music, delicious food, gorgeous flowers, dancing, family and friends, and cupcakes!! What could be better? I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was too busy talking and dancing. The bouquets were all huge bunches of white and pale blue hydrangeas, so perfect for a summer wedding. And the most amazing story was that the pastor was there with his very pregnant wife, left the dinner around 9:30 and she had her baby (a girl!) at 12:30 that night. Wow!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Fleurs: Rain!

Went to bed last night to the sound of thunder, lightning, and driving rain. How lovely to wake this morning to a rain-drenched garden!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Salad Sampler

Eileen (and her broken arm),  Prudy, and Dixie

Last night was our annual Salad Sampler dinner at Eileen's house. We had planned to have it at my house, but Eileen took a spill and broke her arm two weeks ago, so we all went to Eileen's instead to make it easier on her. I made a salade nicoise with shrimp, Dixie did a caprese salad of tomatoes and mozzarella, as well as a black bean and fresh corn salad, and Prudy made Nora's peach pie. I wonder how many of Nora Ephron's peach pies have been made in the past month?  I can't remember when we started doing our salad samplers--many, many years ago, but we always look forward to it and it's fun to make our salads with all the best fresh veggies from the farmer's market. Of course we walked around and admired Eileen's garden--it was fun to see the plants we all buy together up in Lancaster County. Her gardens look great, lots of cool things to look at.

Salade Nicoise
Caprese Salad
Nora's Peach Pie, of course

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Neglected Areas of the Garden

I have this ugly little spot in my backyard by the water faucet and there is a vent for the furnace there and a couple of other pipes,  making it not the most attractive spot in my backyard. And also, it is beneath an underhang, so the rain doesn't reach anything there. I often would drop deadheads in this spot and other cuttings from various plants,  and a few years ago a globe thistle popped up unexpectedly. Then last year I had an old cracked pot with no bottom, so I stuck it in there and planted some coleus in it. This year I added a couple of extra snapdragons I had left over, and another pot of coleus. I had one nicotiana left and popped that in a corner. It has become my catchall spot for leftover plants. And because it is right by the faucet, I remember to give these plants a splash of water very time I turn on the hose.

So for a really ugly spot I think it has had quite the transformation! I like the idea of trying to transform these little neglected spots. Now that I have my main gardens under control, I am concentrating on these neglected areas.  I have a patch between my fence and the chimney where nothing grows except weeds, but I have pulled out the weeds and put gravel in there and then set a pot of bright pink vincas in there. It makes me happy every time I walk by and open up the gate.

That's actually one of the fun things I do when I am taking my walks around town, looking at people's yards and thinking about what I would do. A stacked stone wall with nothing on it--such a waste! An alley between two houses--such potential!

We have 4 large pine trees in our side yard where I have never done anything...I have always thought I would plant azaleas under them, but that hasn't happened. This year I put an old Adirondack chair there and a pot of impatiens and I think it looks much better too. Making the world more beautiful..., as Miss Rumphius would say.