Category Archives: Flowers

Heat and Time

Hot, hot. Too hot. It has been 90 in the shade and oh so humid. Time seems to have stretched to the point where it’s hardly moving.

Next door, the dog has stopped barking, and the little boy no longer runs and yells as he plays. But earlier in the week, the chickens scratched and pecked in the yard.

Not wilting, not drooping, the lilies bloom bravely in the heat.

And the hostas look cool and collected as always.

The sun leaves our backyard around 3:30. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for the patio to cool down and for the black and white cat to take her place.

We both drowse as the heat presses against us and a few mosquitoes whine around our head. Sometimes she looks up. Sometimes I look over at her.

Right now, winter seems like a distant country,  a dim memory of white and cold and time spent inside.

 

High Summer in Maine

After a spell of three brutally hot and humid days, the weather took  a turn for the better, and the past week has been glorious, almost like an old-fashioned Maine summer. The days have been warm, in the high 70s with low humidity. The nights have gone down to 60, chilly enough for a blanket at night. Although I love the change of seasons, I could take a few more months with weather just like this.

Even the mosquitoes have backed off, and while they are not gone, their numbers are greatly reduced. This means, of course, that every night this week has been a patio night. At the end of the day, Clif and I have a cocktail outside, and we sit and watch the birds and the flowers and the woods. We listen to music. We talk. Most of the day, we work separately in our offices, and these evenings on the patio are a special way to come together and to discuss what’s on our minds. (Unfortunately, the political situation is often on our minds, but we do talk about more pleasant things.)

Flowers in my garden continue to bloom. This daylily is one of my favorites, a mouthwatering red.

Now that hostas dominate the front yard, I have come to appreciate not only their foliage but also their modest blooms.

For reasons I don’t understand, the slugs and snails have not yet chewed the hosta leaves into a lacy mess. While there are a few holes here and there, for the most part the leaves look pretty good. I’m not sure why this is so, and we still have the month of August for the slugs and snails to do their worst. Anyway, I’m certainly not complaining. Merely making an observation.

I know that in parts of the country and the world, the heat has been intense, and I hope cooler weather is coming to those who are suffering from extreme temperatures. More hot and humid weather is predicted this weekend for Maine, too.

In the meantime, I will revel in this delightful weather that was once a given for a Maine summer and why tourists flocked here for their vacations.

 

 

 

 

Farewell, High Heat and Humidity!

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the heat and high humidity cracked down on us, and we had four fairly miserable days. But then on Saturday night came a booming thunderstorm that knocked out the power in some towns—not ours, thank goodness—and also knocked out the heat.

Now the weather is delightful. Yesterday was warm and sunny but not too hot, and the night was so cool that we had to close the windows when we went to bed. Blankets were in order, and I was actually chilly when I woke up.

Today promises to run the same course. In my memories, this is how Maine summers once were all the way through September, with maybe a few hot, humid days  at the end of July.

How long this delightful weather will last I do not know. But I’ll take it, and tonight will definitely be a patio night.

My gardens are July gardens, where there is actually a bit of color—primarily yellow—tucked in among the green. Here is a view of the front yard.

Several readers asked if I have astilbe in my gardens. Yes, I do, in the few patches of moist shade that I have in my beds. Astilbe is such a delicate, ethereal flower, one of my favorites.

Hostas are not known for their beautiful blooms, but this one might be the exception to that rule.

Here’s another shot of the ferns, hostas, and a daisy. Just because.

Finally, out back to the patio, where the evening primroses—or sundrops, if you will—are in glorious bloom by the fountain.

Ah, Summer! Such a beautiful season even when it’s too hot.

The Glory of Mid-October in Maine

All right. I know I am prejudiced, but it seems to me that there is no finer place to be in October than Maine. (I can already hear the cries of protest coming from readers in other New England states.) Best of all is the light, which now comes in at a slant to make the landscape glow, and the changing leaves just add to the glory. Most of the humidity is gone, and on good days, the sky is a brilliant, cloudless blue.

But along with the beauty comes loss. Gone are the hummingbirds, and Clif and I miss those whirring beauties. Yesterday, we took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing before storing them down cellar.

We don’t hear the ethereal song of the hermit thrush anymore. In the summer, they tend to sing in the morning and evening. According to Audubon, the males are singing to defend their territory. Whatever the reason, it is an enchanting song that brings to mind little sprites playing their pipes.

We no longer spend nights sitting on the patio, and in a week or two, we’ll be bringing in the tables and chairs. How lonesome the patio looks when it is empty! But yesterday the day was sunny enough and warm enough for us to have lunch on the patio.

However, while some birds have gone, there are plenty that stay year round—the true blues, I call them. The jaunty chickadee is one of those hardier birds. And they, along with the finches, woodpeckers, and nuthatches, are hungrier than ever. It seems like we need to fill the feeders every two days.

The gardens are pretty much spent. There are, of course, modest sedums, but they are overshadowed by the general droopiness of the rest of the plants.

Then there are the begonias, those valiant bloomers that look good from late May through mid-October. Once upon a time, I was iffy about those flowers. Somehow they weren’t showy enough for my taste. How wrong I was! A annual that looks trim and pretty—in its understated way—for nearly five months? Who can ask for anything more?

Having seen the error of my ways, next summer, I plan to go all out with begonias—along the edge of my garden, in pots, everywhere.

From now on my rallying cry will be, “Bring on the begonias!”

The Waning of Summer

Summer has pretty much come to an end. While the days might still be warm and sunny, the gardens around the house tell a different story—autumn is coming.

The back garden is definitely ragged, no two ways about it.

The bee balm is no longer in vibrant bloom, just a few red petals here and there.

Except for the border of annuals, the rest of the garden doesn’t look much better. But the impatiens are positively thriving—I have never seen them so big and full. Clearly, they liked the heat and humidity, even if I didn’t.

And the begonias, troopers that they are, continue to provide welcome color.

The front yard actually looks a little better, and it’s all because of the hostas that I divided and planted in the many holes in my garden. Hostas might not be showy, but they maintain a cool, even presence. Surely there must be a lesson in this.

One plant that is coming into bloom is the sedum—autumn joy. Here’s a close up with a little friend on the top.

Farewell, summer. You might have been too hot and humid, but I treasure those evenings on the patio, the nights with the windows open, the gatherings with grilled bread.

 

 

The Dream of the Fish and the Chips

Last night, I dreamed that Clif and I were making fish and chips. We seemed to be in the hall of the Methodist Church in town. You know how dreams are. People kept coming for our fish and chips, and I was afraid we were going to run out. But lo and behold! Suddenly there was plenty, and when our friends Alice and Joel came, we had enough to give them. I have no idea what the heck such a dream could mean, but it makes me giggle just to think about it.

Now on to other matters in the hinterland.

My birthday is right around the corner—in September—but my friend Barbara will be home in Pennsylvania by then. So we got together for tea and cookies, and she gave me a lovely tea towel.

“I thought of  you when I saw it,” she said.

“Oh, it’s so lovely. I don’t want to use it,” I replied.

Barbara gave me a stern look. “I gave the towel to you to be used.”

She’s right, of course. What’s the sense of having the towel and not using it? So here it is, covering rising bread dough, and this is how the tea towel  will be used from now on. But the tea towel is pretty, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you hate to use it?

And speaking of pretty…I am slowly, slowly coming around to begonias. They’re bright, they do well in part sun, part shade, which is the best my yard gets, and they last straight through until fall. In short, they are troopers. (I hope you noticed the little fairy hovering over them.)

Readers might recall that this was the year I succumbed to hostas. I had lost far too many flowers in the dry shade that is the reality of much of my yard. Finally I snapped, digging like a fiend, splitting up hostas I already had, and planting them wherever there was a hole left by a dead plant. And there were holes aplenty. Now, in late summer, I see the wisdom of all that mad activity in the spring. The front yard actually looks pretty good. There are no masses of flowers, but that’s pretty much true for the entire season. Most important, there are no ugly bare patches.

In the backyard, a plant has crept onto the patio, and Clif thinks it might be an evil creature from Doctor Who. But Clif is wrong. Instead, it is a cucumber, exploring and expanding. So far, I’ve only gotten a few cucumbers. I hope I get more before the frost comes.

This last shot might seem a little odd. This really is our kitchen wastebasket, and there is nothing distinguished about it. I included the wastebasket because in an effort to reduce trash and my carbon footprint, I had set a modest goal for myself. Instead of a bag of trash a week, I resolved to have a bag of trash every other week. I am happy to report that this goal has been met, chiefly by buying more in bulk, cooking more from scratch, and being careful about the packaged goods I do buy.

My next goal? A bag of trash every third week. That one will be harder to achieve.

Stay tuned!

 

Unexpected Beauty between Cumberland Farms and Rite Aid

Finally, finally the heat broke last week, and no longer do I sweat just sitting at my desk and typing. A good feeling! In fact, today is chilly enough so that I actually have on a sweater as I sit and work. And we have had a few glorious August days, typical for Maine but getting rarer as the climate changes: Hot,  sunny, and dry during the day—about 80°F—and deliciously cool enough at night so that blankets are needed.

One night, as I lay in bed with the windows open—I leave them open until it becomes too cold to do so—I listened to the song of the crickets, high, sweet, and sad. I heard the hoot of a barred owl. No cars drove by. Next door, no little boy tooted on his horn. No work across the street on a garage being built. Only the symphony of animals and insects, free from the noise of humans.

We humans have such a way of intruding. You might even call us invasive, and we have the gall of criticizing other species that seem to take up too much space, too many resources. But who are we to wag the finger as we burn through Earth’s resources?

I thought of this the other day when we went to our local Cumby’s, to get air for our car’s tires. As I sat and waited for Clif to fill the tires, I noticed an unlikely strip of beauty, wedged between the gas station and the road, with a Rite Aid on the other side. Luckily I had my camera with me.

This spot is a wet area, in its glory right now, and from this picture, you’d never guess how small and cramped it is. But here is an opportunity, and nature filled in. No doubt water creatures live there, too, caught between the parking lot and the road.

You have probably also noticed the purple loosestrife, which has been dubbed invasive, and I guess it is. But despite its name—did Dickens come up with it?—and spreading ways, it is a lovely flower that attracts lots of pollinators. Even though purple loosestrife is the bane of naturalists, I have sympathy for this plant that, along with with goldenrod and cattails, can bloom in a wet spot surrounded by asphalt and traffic.

One day, I wonder, will we be grateful for this tough beauty that has the ability to thrive in such a cramped area?

Who knows? But here in Winthrop, Maine, purple loosestrife has at least one admirer.