Category Archives: Flowers

Progress Report as Summer Slides into Fall

Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been working diligently on my YA fantasy novel, Out of Time. I am about three-quarters done. The end is in sight, and I can definitely see land now.  This galloping toward the finish line is the exciting part of writing a book, and thoughts of editing and revision are pushed firmly to the side. All that matters now is the story, and there will be time enough for the really picky work when I am finished.

While I have been feverishly working—six days a week, with Sundays off—late summer has begun its slide into early fall. A bittersweet time. Fall, with its blaze of orange, red, and yellow, is magnificent in Maine. The cool, crisp days are invigorating, and the bounty of apples, squash, and potatoes reminds us of all the good things that come from Earth. Simmering soups and fresh biscuits or muffins make this a cozy season.

But—somehow there is always a but—the days are shorter, and we no longer have long nights on the patio. The nights have become cool enough that we have begun thinking about turning on the heat, a cost that is a burden for those of us who live on a shoestring budget.

In this part of the world, fall is also hurricane season, and right now there is a brute of a storm named Dorian that is smashing the Bahamas and heading toward Florida. We mourn for the destruction in the Bahamas and wait apprehensively as Dorian approaches Florida. “Go out to sea, go out to sea,” we pray, but the storm runs by its own rules and will hit wherever it wants.

While hurricanes usually don’t make it as far north as Maine, we have nevertheless begun thinking of stocking up on canned beans, canned soup, peanut butter, and batteries. Winter is coming, and we want to be prepared. Yesterday I emptied, scrubbed, and refilled the big covered buckets we use for storing water. That way, if a storm knocks out our power, we have water. We have a well, and no power means no water. This scrubbing and refilling is a yearly fall ritual, another reminder that summer is coming to an end.

The gardens are yet another reminder. As my blogging friend Tootlepedal might put it, our gardens are no longer at their best. Their midsummer glory is a thing of the past, and now a faded, slightly regretful air hangs over everything. And the shrubs, neglected last year, are in desperate need of a trimming.

Fortunately, we have black-eyed Susans to brighten the yard.

And the promising blush of pink from the sedums.

Farewell, Summer. Sometimes, especially in July, you are too hot, but I still love you.

And now it’s back to work on Out of Time. I am hoping that my next post—probably the end of September—will have the title Finished.

 

 

August, Stay Awhile

The crickets have begun to sing. Their sweet trilling songs signal the arrival of late summer, a beautiful time in Maine. And this year, despite the climate crisis, August in Maine is everything it ought to be. The days are warm and dry. The nights are cool. We have a little rain now and then. Such a lovely, lovely month, and I wish I could stop it from speeding by. August, stay awhile. Don’t hurry on.

By August, the gardens are usually starting to look a little tattered, but this year they still look pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we had such a cool, rainy spring, and everything got a late start.

However, the slugs and snails have been nibbling on the hostas.

Still, they don’t look too bad. Sometimes by this time of year the hosta leaves look like green lace.

For the first time, I planted nasturtiums in the patio garden, and they are thriving. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. It looks as though the  nasturtiums are ready to engulf the patio, and woe to those sitting on that side of the table. Feed me, Seymour!

This week the first Black-eyed Susan opened, and there are many more to come.

As is noted on the Better Homes & Gardens website, “Since black-eyed Susan blooms when other summer perennials begin to fade, this plant is a true sign that fall is near.”  Even though I love fall, black-eyed Susans are another reason to cherish August.

Various daylilies are still blooming. While they don’t thrive in my shady yard, they do add welcome bursts of color.

This weekend, we will be going to two plays. We will be having a friend over for nibbles and tidbits.

We will hold August close and be outside as much as possible.

The Patio Awaits

Somehow, the weather must have known that July has ended and August has begun. At least for the moment, the horrid humidity has gone. We no longer feel as though we are being squeezed and sapped by the heat. Instead, the warmth holds us in a gentle hand, reminding us of how sweet summer can be. And like Augusts of old, the past two nights have been so chilly that we have needed blankets.

A window is by my desk, and a turn of the head is all it takes to look outside and see a hummingbird working the hosta blossoms. In the bush by the window, a bird sings a piping, melodious song. I hear the buzz of grasshoppers, a true sound of summer, reminding me of the fragrant smell of a warm field.

At the end of the day, when the work is done, what awaits me is one of my absolute favorite places to be—our own humble patio.

Here is a side view.

Although you can’t see them in the photo, the Mardi Gras Parade daylilies have begun to bloom. Unfortunately, these daylilies are not thriving, but the colors are so pretty that I have left them there.

While Clif and I have a drink—sometimes cocktails, sometimes beer, sometimes iced tea—visitors come.

And on a fine August evening, caressed by the heat as I watch the birds and the dragonflies, I feel as though I am the luckiest woman in Winthrop.

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!”