Category Archives: Flowers

An Uninvited but Welcome Guest in the Garden

It is a fact universally acknowledged that gardeners must wage a constant battle against weeds and various invaders that threaten to overwhelm their best beloveds. However, once in a while there comes an uninvited guest that is so welcome, so lovely, and so exactly in the right spot that all a gardener can do is say a silent prayer of thanks to the gardening gods.

So it is with these wild daisies that somehow found their way into my garden in a spot where nothing else really thrived. The daisies—tall, bright, and white—are exactly where they should be—in the middle of the garden. There, I hope, they will stay, and I will do my best to encourage them to thrive and spread.

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I See Beauty, But Clif Sees the Back-End of a Turkey

It’s funny how two people can look at the same thing and come up with two different reactions. When I look at this picture, this flower, this iris, I see Beauty.

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Clif, on the other hand, sees “the back-end of a turkey.”  Oh, how this stabs my heart. I love irises, and if I had a yard with more sun and better soil, I would have clumps and clumps of them. As it is, I have to be content with a few patches, some of which thrive better than others. In short, irises are my darlings, and nobody likes to hear someone make fun of his or her darlings. Especially when that someone just happens to be a spouse of nearly forty years.

Ah, well. Such are the turbulences that roil the little house in the big woods. Fortunately, they soon pass, and when they do, I am able to laugh at Clif’s foolishness, and mine, too, of course.

Here are some more pictures of what’s going on in the yard at the little house in the big woods. And as far as I can see, there is no back-end of a turkey.

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The Lesson of the Hawthorn Tree: There Is Always More to Notice

A friend of mine, who has beautiful gardens, has graciously allowed me to take pictures of her flowers whenever I want. As her home is on our bike route, I tuck my wee wonder of a camera in my bike pack and  stop quite frequently during spring and summer.

Over the years, I’ve taken many, many pictures of her flowers, so you’d think I’d know every inch of her yard, but you would be wrong. I found this out the other day when she gave me a call.

“I wondered if you had noticed our hawthorn tree,” my friend said. “It’s in bloom right now with the most beautiful red flowers.”

“No,” I replied. “I’ve never really noticed that tree.”

“It’s in the front yard just behind the garden,” she said. “Come on over and take a picture if you want.”

“Will do!” I said. “Thanks so much for calling.”

The next day just happened to be a perfect day for taking pictures of the flowers on the hawthorn tree. It was sunny, but not too sunny on the tree, and there was just enough light to illuminate the flowers but not too much to have them washed out.

“Funny how I never noticed this tree,” I said as I took pictures.

“Well, most of the year it’s just a tree with green leaves. But in the spring, it’s got those red flowers. And this year seems to be a particularly good year for the flowers.”

Indeed it is.

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Now, I am a fool for flowers—in my own garden, in other people’s gardens, wild by the side of the road. It doesn’t matter. For environmental reasons, Clif and I stay pretty close to home, and although I never get tired of taking pictures of flowers, each year I can’t help but think that I’m not going to get anything new, that I’ve taken all there is to take in my little world. And each year I’m proven wrong. In a five-mile radius from my home, I always find something new to notice, some new beauty to photograph.

This just goes to show that even an observant person is not going to notice everything that grows around her. Each year will bring some new delight previously unexplored. This is not to slight old friends, such as my purple irises that are nearly in bloom. When those purple beauties open, I’ll be taking picture after picture, just as I do every year.

But it does suggest that we need to keep open eyes and an open mind about things that are near to us, to not take our immediate surrounds for granted. Because you never now what you might find—a flowering hawthorn tree, a bridal wreath in bloom by the lake, or some kind of neglected beauty.

All we have to do is look.

Of Lupine and the Lake, of Pink and Frothy White

Yesterday, Clif and I went on a bike ride. As we have been, ahem, a little inactive this winter, we only went five miles. (Somehow, riding on the road to nowhere on the exercise bike just doesn’t do it for us.) No matter! It was a glorious five miles, and as June wears on, we will build up our strength. For our birthdays in September, we hope to go on a fifteen-mile trek and then cap it off with fish and chips at a local pub.

For yesterday’s bike ride, we started from Norcross Point, a small but lovely waterfront park in town where residents can launch their boats or come for a picnic or just plain relax and enjoy the view.

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We went past the public beach and down pretty Memorial Drive, a great road for bikers, and I came upon these lupines, which are early this year.

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Here is a closer look. Always fascinating to see flowers up close, where they are nearly unrecognizable.

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We also stopped to take pictures of a friend’s garden, which right now is vivid with pink. Later in the summer, it will be cool blue and yellow. I love how gardens change color with the seasons.

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On we went by the lake, and although we were slow, we were steady. The sun was hot, but there was a gentle breeze to help cool us. When we got back to Norcross Point, I noticed a froth of white by the edge of the lake. Naturally, I had to take a picture.

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Two women from my book group were sitting nearby. They had brought their lawn chairs and lunches, and were reveling in the fine weather and the beautiful sweep of the lake. “A bit of paradise,” one of them said.

I couldn’t argue.

This afternoon, Clif and I will go on another bike ride. This time I hope to get good pictures of a hawthorn tree that is in glorious bloom in my friend’s yard.

Fingers crossed!

Memorial Day Weekend, 2016

On Sunday, our friends Joel and Alice and Diane came over for a Memorial Day gathering that featured grilled bread, salads, and homemade strawberry ice cream with homemade shortbread. Accordingly, Saturday was a busy day of getting ready. However, I did find time to work a bit in the garden, and I came upon this tiny fellow—a spring peeper?  (Eliza, what do you think?)

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The little creature, about an inch long, bounced around as though it were on a spring, but I did manage to capture a picture.

Sunday was a little cloudy, but it didn’t rain, and it was warm enough to eat on the patio. We toasted loved ones who had passed as well as service men and woman who had sacrificed themselves for this country.

Clif’s legendary grilled bread was the centerpiece of the meal, and we had salads to go with the bread. I’m always afraid there won’t be enough to eat, but with the huge grilled bread, there was more than enough with the salads that Alice, Diane, and I made. (We, of course, had appetizers beforehand—chips and salsa and cheddar popcorn. ) We all decided that the bread and salad meal was a tradition we should continue. (Thanks, Alice, for providing the dough.)

I had enough presence of mind to snap a picture of the bread and salads, but not enough to get a picture of dessert.

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Among other things, we talked about politics—lots to discuss!—and, as is our way—we also talked about movies. Diane made an interesting point. She is mentoring a student at Bowdoin College, and this student and her friends hardly ever go to the movies. They do, however, watch movies. One of the students has a TV, and they regularly get together to have pizza and watch a movie.

Diane reflected as to how our generation was the movie generation. We grew up going to the movies, and it was the thing to do with family and friends. But now, with the changes in technology—the quality of the image on flat screens is pretty darned good—combined with the high price of movie tickets and popcorn, going to the movies is not the regular event it once was. Someday, perhaps, when we baby boomers are gone, the cinemas will close because of lack of business. (I recently read in the New Yorker that the average teenager goes to the movies six times a year, and this matches Diane’s experience with her college students.)

As someone who grew up going to the movies, I must admit that it’s a little sad to think of this. But times change, and with services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, there are plenty of good shows and movies to watch at home.

And who knows? Perhaps somehow cinemas will manage to hold on.

Finally, today—Memorial Day—is the 105 anniversary of my grandmother’s birthday. How old that makes me feel! Josephine Lena Jacques was born in northern Maine, in North Caribou, in a farmhouse that I expect did not have electricity or running water.  French was her first language, although by the time I was born, she was fluent in English. Her mother and father were potato farmers, and they went to town in a horse and wagon. The changes my grandmother saw in her lifetime.

Happy birthday, Mémère. Here is a pansy, one of my favorite flowers, in your honor.

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A Busy Day of Buying Flowers and Chasing a Chipmunk

IMG_2622For Mother’s Day, my daughters bought me gift certificates to a local garden center, and yesterday I went to buy plants for my gardens and for containers. Because of the shadiness of the yard at the little house in the big woods, I am very limited as to what I can buy, not only for the gardens but also to put in pots. Never mind. I have learned to love what thrives here—begonias, impatiens, and coleus. (Surely there is a lesson in this somewhere.) My front garden even has a relatively moist spot for astilbe, which I never had to learn to love. I was smitten with them from the very start. And, lucky me, snapdragons thrive here. How I admire those jaunty flowers, and I always buy the dwarf variety to put on the edge of the back garden. I also bought herbs and one tomato plant—the fair Juliet, which does well in part sun and part shade.

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Even though I knew what I wanted, I spent a happy hour or so looking at the various plants and flowers at the garden center. With the back of the car full of plants and flowers, I headed home, happy and content.

However, as soon as I got home and saw Clif just standing in the dining room, I knew something wasn’t right. When he came out to help me with the flowers, he looked glum, and I knew for sure something was wrong.

“What happened?” I asked.

“There might be a squirrel in the house?”

“What do you mean there might be?”

“Well, I was working in my office, and the cats chased one into the room. It ran into the closet, and I had the devil of a time getting it out.”

“Then what happened?”

“It ran out of my office, and I haven’t seen it since. Maybe it went back outside.”

“Maybe,” I said, hopeful but not convinced. Nothing is ever that easy.

But the squirrel could have found its way back outside. On nice days, we leave the cellar door open so that the dog and cats can go in and out as they please. In twelve years of doing so, this is the first time we have had a squirrel come into the house.

“Was it a red squirrel?” I asked.

“I think so,” Clif answered.

A red squirrel! Those fierce little bundles of Tasmanian-devil aggression and energy. A while back, one got into the house of a friend when she was away, and it did so much damage trying to get out that her whole house had to be remodelled.

“I wonder if homeowners insurance covers squirrel damage,” I said.

“Probably,” Clif replied.

Hoping that it wouldn’t get to that point, we poked around the house and looked for the squirrel. Nothing. Eventually, like the cats, we gave up looking for it. Maybe it had gone back outside.

But a little later, when I was out on the patio, I heard Clif call, “It’s in the dining room!” I went down cellar, grabbed a broom, and headed upstairs to help Clif.

“Where is it?” I asked.

“Behind the bookcase with the cook books,” Clif said, nudging it with the broom he was holding.

The little creature leaped onto the window sill, and “That’s not a squirrel!” I exclaimed.  “That’s a chipmunk!”

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of rodents. I am not afraid of them—all right, big rats do freak me out—and I wish them no harm. I just want them to stay outside where they belong. However, I must admit I have a soft spot for chipmunks, those mild, unassuming but very cute rodents who, as a rule, never try to come inside. (My theory is that the cats chased this one inside.) When I saw this chipmunk, I smiled, and the dread I was feeling went away. I knew we would be able to get this little creature back outside.

“Open the dining room door,” I said, and Clif did so.

Taking the broom, he nudged the chipmunk, and I stood with my broom, blocking the way to the rest of the house. The chipmunk leaped from the window sill, and glory hallelujah, it rushed out the open door.

“Success!” I yelled.  “Chalk one up for team Clif and Laurie.”

Such are the goings-on at the little house in the big woods. We have our moments of failure, but we also have our moments of triumph.

Now, let us hope there are no more cat and rodent shenanigans for the rest of the summer.

 

Wild Flowers at the Little House in the Big Woods

As regular readers of this blog know, I refer to our home as “the little house in the big woods,” a nod, of course, to Laura Ingalls Wilder. (As a child, I loved her books.) Yes, we have neighbors, and yes, a road goes right by our house.  Nevertheless, our home is tucked into the the woods at the edge of a watershed that protects the Upper Narrows Pond, which is used as a source of drinking water.

Many years ago, a college friend of my daughter’s came here to visit. Because he arrived at night, he really didn’t get a sense of the lay of the land. The next morning, my daughter found him looking out the dining-room window into our backyard.

“I have never seen so many trees in my life,” he said. As he is from Long Island, from a tight neighborhood, I’m sure he wasn’t exaggerating.

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Our wooded backyard

 

Because we are so much in the woods, my flower gardens are a constant challenge, and when you add dry shade to this, it is easy to understand why I frequently grumble that I have the worst yard in Winthrop in which to garden.

However, nature often compensates. What it lacks in one way, it provides in another. For the shady yard at the little house in the big woods, this means spring wild flowers, which bloom in modest profusion on the lawn and by the edges of the woods. These flowers are not bright and showy but are nonetheless lovely, and I look forward to them every spring.

There is Jack-in-the-Pulpit, the pride of the backyard.

Jack, the pride of the backyard

Violets, of course.

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Yellow Clintonia, or the much prettier name, blue bead lily.

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A closer look.

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Dandelions also pop up here and there,  They are considered a weed, I know, but the bees love them. And if bees love them, then so do I.

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We also have a small patch of wild blueberries. I hope they spread.

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More wild flowers are on the way, and as they bloom, I’ll feature them along with my garden flowers.