Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Once Upon A River

This is a story about Margo Crane, a young girl living on the river in rural Michigan in the 1970s. Abandoned by her mother and raised by her father, she is left alone and estranged from her family when her father is killed during a family argument.  Nicknamed "Sprite," she is very much a woodland creature, rarely speaking and always observing. Margo takes off up the Stark River in a teak boat built by her grandfather, supposedly to look for her mother. Along the way, a lot of bad things happen to her, but Margo is one tough young girl, and becomes an expert at hunting and skinning deer and squirrels and pretty much any other animal she meets along the way. She lives off  the land and the river, inspired always by the survival skills of her hero, Annie Oakley.  Margo makes some bad decisions along the way, and it’s easy to forget that she is only 16 years old.  What I liked most about the book was the strong sense of place—the river is almost a character itself, so vividly described that you feel like you could be there. The wildlife, the fish, the water, the woods, these are the things that comfort Margo.  My book group discussed this book last night, and while reactions were mixed,  I really enjoyed the book-- it's not a plot-driven story, but a quieter study of a young girl trying to understand the world around her. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Garden Tour Inspiration


On Sunday I went on the garden tour in my town, the same one my garden was a part of  last year. It sure was nice to visit other gardens and not have the pressure of having my own garden perfect this year!  I was particularly excited because one of the gardens on the tour is one I walk or drive by nearly every day. This is a house that I stop and look at every time, because the owners are obviously gardeners, with specimen plants in the front yard for all to see, and 3 greenhouses in the back. They have more than 1,500 crocus and species tulips blooming in their front yard in the spring, and that is quite a sight to see. I have been dying to see the backyard for all these years, and this was my chance. I knew the guy was a gardener because he was interviewed by the Post's garden editor a few years ago about his orchids. I spent most of my time at this garden because there was so much to see--more than three acres of plants.

One thing I especially liked was all the dish gardens around the garden. The owner used dwarf conifers and succulents in many of them, they were my favorites. They get a lot of their plants through mail order nurseries--no Home Depot plants here.

There were so many shrubs and trees I have never even heard of, variegated, golden, weeping varieties. This is a variegated redwood tree and a weeping redbud.

A variegated redwood tree
Golden redwood tree

Weeping redbud

This was the path to the backyard--a shady garden filled with ferns, hostas, hellebores, azaleas, and other shade plants. That's an enormous generator on the left that powers the greenhouses.

Pretty grouping of hostas and ferns

Greenhouse filled with orchids

The gardens went on forever, much to my delight. Behind the house are several gardens with different seating areas and water features, and then the greenhouses and work areas.  There used to be a pool, but it was cracked during the earthquake a few years ago and they had it filled in and now it is another garden. Behind the greenhouses are a huge vegetable garden, raspberry patch, and blueberry patch, and a lilac grove. I was in heaven. It's so fascinating to me to see how passionate people are about their gardens. This place is obviously their life, and they put so much time, energy, and money into it. I'm glad my garden was not on the same tour, because this one was really a superstar.

Loved the working areas

And wouldn't you love to have a tiled wall depicting yourself in your garden next to the back door? It was custom made for the owners many years ago.

The mulched area is where the pool used to be

Vegetable garden

An interesting feature at another house was this rock garden along the shady side of the house. I loved the simple use of river rocks and plantings, along with a few pieces of art. 

And I'm always a sucker for fairy gardens...

I have never seen a pink oakleaf hydrangea, and I loved it. This garden also had a curbside strip of wildflowers in front of their house, which was so pretty. I've always wanted to turn that strip of grass in front of my house (the tree lawn) into a garden. Hmmm.

And I liked this colorful arrangement of pots on the steps.  I thought these were vintage pots, but the owner said he gets most of his pots at Homegoods!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday Dinner at the Bissells

Yesterday we went out to Bristow, to my niece Jill's house for dinner, as Tom and Evie were in town for a visit. Jill's daughter Hayden had a dance recital this weekend, so they came to watch her performances. It was fun to see everyone, and especially to see all the changes Jill and Drew have done to their yard. They have a large wooded lot and they have done a lot of work,  adding curved beds, lots of shrubs and trees and it looks beautiful. It's very restful with all those trees. Sunday was a hot day but by the time dinner rolled around it was very pleasant sitting out on the deck among all their trees. 

Halle and Hayden
Drew, Biff, and Walt
Earlier in the day I went to to several gardens on our town's annual garden tour. It's always fun to see other people's gardens--I was so excited because one of my favorite gardens in town was on the tour, and I spent over an hour at just that one garden--so much to see. I'll be back with pictures soon.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Fleurs: Hydrangeas

It's hydrangea time, and mine are just coming into peak bloom right now. These are the lacecap and oakleaf varieties blooming right now. I love the lacecaps, actually love them all-- I could have a whole yard full of all different kinds of hydrangeas. I also have the more common mophead hydrangea, but last fall I pruned it back almost to the ground, so I know I won't get any blooms this year since they bloom on old wood. But it did survive that major cutback and so I'm happy about that.  I also have an Endless Summer hydrangea and a Limelight, but they will bloom later in the summer.  We still seem to be about 2 weeks behind last year in bloom times--last year the hydrangeas were blooming on June 5, according to my garden journal.

Lacecap hydrangea

Oakleaf hydrangea

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer 1974, Paris

Evie recently sent me this fun picture of our summer in Paris in 1974. I was studying at the Sorbonne for the year, and my friend Char (on right) was studying dance, and we lived in Paris. My brother and his family, who were living in Istanbul at the time, were traveling around Europe that summer and wanted to spend a month in Paris. Char and I were lucky to have two friends, Emmanuel and Gerard, who somehow convinced their sister to let Tom and Evie and their three kids stay in her empty house outside of Paris for the month of August (the sister was en vacances--vacation). It was a short train ride into Paris and it was a pretty awesome summer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lavender and More

I am happy to see my lavender hedge blooming right now, because I cut it back pretty drastically this spring and it was looking kind of sad for awhile. However,  I have to remember that it is pretty much okay to cut this back at any time--it always comes back.  This is mostly the 'Munstead' variety of lavender, with a stray 'Hidcote' (the darker blue) in there too.

And I read about this tip in Fine Gardening: To keep your birdbath clean, tie up a small bundle of lavender and put it in the water. Change it once a week. Mine develops a lot of algae, so I am giving this a try and am hoping it helps--so far I think it is better.

There's lots blooming in the garden right now, astilbe, daisies, larkspur, yarrow, coreopsis, still some roses.  And all the hydrangeas are just beginning. We''re supposed to get some thunderstorms today--I have hardly had to water at all this year because of all the rain we have had.


Rose and Larkspur

Larkspur, Achillea

Friday, June 14, 2013

Julia's European Adventures

Julia and Sheila in Paris

Julia got home yesterday from her trip to Europe and I had asked her to take a picture in every city she visited so I could do her travelogue on the blog!  She did pretty good with the pictures, except for Rome. She started out in Paris for the wedding of a high school friend, which was really fun,  then took the train south with a friend to Bordeaux,  then on to Venice, Florence, Rome, Budapest, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. She even met up with some friends in Budapest that she had met when she worked in Budapest a few years ago. She had a great time and had some amazing meals-- I couldn't resist showing the picture of the oysters and the patisserie in Paris, of course.

Julia and Hampton in Bordeaux

Patisserie in France

Venice (love that gondola)

Oysters in Bordeaux



 Budapest skyline

Julia and Hungarian friends in Budapest


Biking in Copenhagen