Thursday, May 30, 2013

Suspect, by Robert Crais

I have been in a reading lull lately, unable to get into a book, let alone finish one.  Don't know why I am in this mode but it is very disconcerting. I keep bringing home books, picking them up, and putting them down. Robert Crais is a favorite "go to" author when I want something easy and readable and distracting.  After I brought this book home, I realized it wasn't Crais's usual characters of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, but a new character, Scott James.  I was going to return it but Walt had picked it up and liked it, so I decided to give it a try. And I  finished it!  And I did enjoy it. Scott James is an LA detective who is recovering from serious gunshot wounds some months earlier in a mob hit in which his partner Stephanie was murdered. He is trying to deal with that trauma and get back on the job and ends up working with the LAPD K-9 unit. He is matched with Maggie, a German shepherd  who was wounded by a Taliban sniper in Afghanistan who also killed her partner, Pete.  LAPD isn't sure if Maggie can work again as she is suffering from PTSD. Together  James and Maggie slowly begin to work together and on the sly begin hunting down clues about the night when Scott and his partner were shot.  Of course they forge a strong relationship which helps both of them to heal mentally and physically . We even get the perspective of Maggie, as several chapters are told from her viewpoint. It was really interesting to read about how K-9 dogs are trained and about the relationship they form with their handler.  If it sounds a little corny, I thought so too, but actually the book was quite good and I would call it a very good read. I wouldn't be surprised if Scott and Maggie reappear in another book by Crais. He sure has a way of creating believable, likable characters, even a dog.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kousa Dogwood

My kousa dogwood is a finicky thing. I don't know if this is typical or not, but mine blooms every other year. I have tried to research this to see if it is a peculiarity of the kousa, but I can't find anything that suggests that.  Some gardening books say a drought year can cause fewer blooms, but mine seems to bloom regularly every other year.  But happily this is a blooming year and it is really beautiful right now.  You can see from my garden journal that it had no flowers in 2012, but tons of flowers in 2011! So strange, is it just part of my tree's life cycle?

There is something so restful and calming about white flowers in the garden. I love how they look against all that green foliage. Someday I am going to have an all white garden somewhere.  But for now I better just enjoy my kousa's blooms because I probably won't see them again until 2015.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Bud


Almost as much as the flowers,  I love the way my plants look when they are in bud form. I have had a great time the past few days taking pictures in my garden of all the buds--about to bloom.  The weather this weekend was perfect gardening weather--sunny but cool,  and I got a lot done, staking plants, pruning some shrubs, deadheading the peonies, weeding,  and general neatening up. As I write this there is a nice gentle rain falling, a wonderful sound for a gardener.

Digitalis grandiflora (yellow foxglove)
Siberian iris
Alchemilla mollis  (lady's mantle)
Drumstick allium
White Pine



Eryngium (sea holly)

Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Deck Cleaning

We had a busy Sunday, the main job being the cleaning of our deck. Usually it's done by now, but it's been such a chilly spring we just haven't gotten to it. We have a Trex deck, which I love, but it definitely needs a good cleaning once a year. It's a chore, of course, because we have to take all the pots off the deck, and the furniture, and then that leads to cleaning the furniture...and well it was a long day. On top of that, Walt swam in the morning and then ran 10 miles in the afternoon-- his triathalon is in 2 weeks!

Nice clean chairs

Hanging out under a tree

To reward ourselves for all that hard work, we decided to drive downtown to the new Shake Shack for burgers and milkshakes. We have been to Shake Shack in NYC, and it was a big deal for burger lovers when Shake Shack came to DC. It was a beautiful evening and we walked through Dupont Circle and up Connecticut Avenue,  and around some of the Dupont neighborhoods.  I practically started crying when I saw a bookstore that has been there since the 1970s, and was the first to open a cafe and offer coffee and treats. My friend Patty and I thought that was just about the very best thing possible, books and coffee too. It felt so great to be in a real bookstore,  there just aren't any left anymore.  I appreciate Barnes and Noble, but it just doesn't feel like a real bookstore. Of course that started us talking about all the old bookstores, my favorite being Savile's Bookshop on P Street in Georgetown. And Olssons on Wisconsin Ave. I could go on and on, but they're all gone. DC does have Politics and Prose, which is an awesome bookstore, but we don't get there much. Might need to take a field trip there...


Dupont Circle

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Fleurs: Peonies and Iris

Ok, I know I am posting a lot about peonies lately, but oh!, the peonies this year! This must be the year of the peony, because everywhere I go, driving to work, walking through my neighborhood, cruising through town, my eye is drawn to these spectacular, over the top, traffic-stopping (in my mind traffic should be stopping)  stands of peonies. These are the regular herbaceous peonies, the old-fashioned floppy ones, and not the tree peonies, which are pretty much done around here.  These are my favorites of the herbaceous, these dark pink, scarlet peonies. The color is just so pure and velvety and the flowers are just perfection.  These are blooming with the Siberian iris, a happy mix. I'm not such a fan of Siberian iris, but they sure look better when they are blooming near these peonies.

And look who left for Paris last night? Julia is off for a 3 week trip through Europe before she joins the business world,  lucky girl.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


The rhododendrons are at their peak right now. Even though this photo is very overexposed, I kinda liked the effect.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Round, by Stanley Kunitz

"The Round" ~ By Stanley Kunitz

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Combinations

Euphorbia and geranium

I find what I am most drawn to in gardens these days is the combination of plants, the colors, the textures, the mix of tiny and big, light and dark. I love the look of a lacy fern sweeping across a ribbed hosta leaf, a chartreuse plant next to dark purple. These plantings in my garden are usually not intentional--they just result from random plantings and placing lots of plants close together. Happily, they usually mingle together and produce a great effect.

Hosta, Japanese painted fern, variegated hosta

Euphorbia, heuchera, sedum

Hosta, anemone, azalea

Lysimachia, geranium, heuchera 'Creme Brulee'

Geranium, lambs ear

Lysimachia, succulent

Monday, May 20, 2013

Garden Blues

Baptisia australis

There are so many blues (and pinks, but that's for another day) blooming in my garden right now~the baptisia is spectacular and I have been taking so many pictures! This is definitely one of my favorite and most reliable perennials. I have had it for many, many years and it blooms beautifully every year. It's big--4 feet--and takes up a fair amount of space in my garden, but I like its nice sweet pea-like, blue-green foliage that looks good even after it finishes blooming. I usually cut mine back by about a third after it blooms, to control the size. It's blooming right now with the herbaceous peonies and they are a beautiful combination.

I have been reading a great book about photography, Understanding Exposure, and I have been forcing myself to use my camera in manual mode only.  I find for every 20 or so pictures I take I get a great one.  It's fun playing around with different apertures and shutter speeds and adjusting white balance, but it takes a lot of time for me and it doesn't come easy. So on this rainy and not very nice weekend I took some time and took tons of pictures and did several of the exercises recommended in the book,  and I am slowly beginning to understand exposure a little better.  It's supposed to get up to 90 degrees this week, so looks like our nice cool spring may be over. This has been such a great spring for the garden, everything blooming a little later,  and a little longer.

Thalictrum (Meadow Rue)
Iris pallida 
Mahonia bealei