Category Archives: Gardening

A Tale of Two Gardens & a Short Break

At my home on the edge of the woods, my gardens look their best in June, July, and August. This time of year, they are at a frowzy stage, with lots of drooping yellow and brown leaves and spent flowers.

The back garden, more formally laid out than the ones in the front yard, is most definitely past its best. The glory of its summer days are long gone.

However, as you can see from this view from one of the windows in our house, the backyard is still a nice place to be, even in autumn.

In the front yard, the gardens are more haphazardly laid out and are not as lovely as the back garden when it’s at its peak.

However, in autumn, the “tangly” nature of the front gardens really shines, reminding me that late bloomers have a certain loveliness. Perhaps the same is true of people as well?

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Next week will be a busy one for me. In between painting and refurbishing one of our bathrooms, we will also be celebrating two birthdays—my 64th birthday on the 15th and Clif’s 70th. His birthday is not until the 27th, but we are firm believers in celebrating early and often.

I will therefore be taking a break from posting, reading other blogs, and commenting.

I plan to come back the week of September 20th.

À bientôt!

 

Gardening in a June Heatwave

When I was young, it would have been inconceivable to have a heatwave in June in Maine. Yet here we are with the temp in the mid 90s. Records have yet again been broken. Back in the day, even at the end of July or the beginning of August, it was rare for the temp to be that high. My parents and grandparents would have been astonished to deal with such heat in June. And not at all happy. Thank goodness we have Eva, our air conditioner.

Nevertheless, I have pushed on with gardening, going out right after breakfast and coming in before noon, the opposite of what I usually do.

Three weeks ago, the plant table looked like this:

This morning, it looked like this:

Here are some of the flowers in pots by our entryway, their cheery colors ready to greet visitors.

A closer look at the violas, or Johnny-jump-ups as they are also called around here.

But for me, none of the newbies can compare with the irises, which have been here for over thirty years.

With such beauty, a closer look is definitely in order.

On this second week in June, the intense gardening is coming to an end. From here on out, it will be maintenance, feeding, watering, and weeding. A part of me is relieved. Planting and getting the beds ready have been a lot of work. But a part of me is also a little sorry that the rush of spring planting has come to an end. A busy time, yes, but also an exciting time.

My gardens are most definitely June and July gardens. Accordingly, for the next couple months, my blog will feature many pictures of the bursts of color that come briefly to this shady yard.

When you have to wait nine months—almost like having a baby—for flowers, the pleasure is oh so sweet when they finally bloom.

 

 

Judy’s Hosta Plus a Couple More

Long-time readers will know that hostas are a major feature in my gardens. For years, I went for plants that had glorious blooms. One after another, I lost those plants. All right. I’ll admit it. I craved a cottage garden. But, when you live in the woods, you are doomed to heartache if you try for a cottage garden.

A few years (and tears) ago, I gave in to hostas, especially in the driest beds.  My moister beds do have a little more variety, but even in them, there are many plants that won’t thrive.

Slowly, I learned to appreciate hostas and the wave of various shades of green they bring to the front yard. Their blossoms are modest but pleasing. (Be gone, all thoughts of corn flowers!) But here’s the most important factor of all: They grow and flourish where most plants just fizzle. Snail and slugs might munch their leaves to lace, but the hostas are not intimidated. Each year, they rebound with vigor. Surely there is a lesson in all of this.

My blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread is also a fan of hostas. Last year, during the height of the pandemic, she sent me a package, which—lo and behold!—contained a hosta. It was a little droopy, but I know how sturdy hostas are, and I planted it right away.

Judy, you will not surprised to learn that this hosta is thriving. Here is a picture of that beauty, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten.

Many thanks, Judy!

And here are a couple more pictures of some of the hostas in my garden. Just because.

Rainy Day Photos from the Garden

Yesterday, the rain came, not driving but instead light and perfect, which nonetheless brought us a goodly amount. Three or four inches, I think. Unfortunately, I don’t have a rain gauge.

Too bad it had to happen on Memorial Day weekend—a holiday in this country where we honor those who have died in military service. We also mourn friends and family who have passed. But there is no denying the rain is much needed. It has been a dry spring.

Here are some scenes from a grateful garden. Or maybe it’s the gardener who is grateful.

Strawberry Challenge

The high heat has gone away, and we are having pleasant sunny weather in the low 80s. No AC needed. But the summer is still young, and I expect we’ll be using Eva—my name for the AC—many times before the cool snap of fall comes.

No rain yet, but it is in the forecast for this weekend. Fingers crossed because central Maine is dry, dry, dry. One of the driest Junes in my memory.

In the backyard, the evening primroses are in bloom, and the back garden is aglow with yellow, a jaunty contrast to all the green.

Clif took a closer look at these bursts of yellow.

Recently, we bought ant moats to attach to the hummingbird feeders. Filled with water, the moats keep the ants out of the enticing sugar-water mixture. What we didn’t count on was that the birds would view the moats as another place to drink water. Somehow, a nuthatch taking a sip of water from a moat doesn’t bother us one bit.

With all the hostas I’ve planted, the front yard is not as flamboyant as the backyard. Still, there are pleasures to be found.

This week, strawberries came in our CSA share, two quarts of sweet gems. The berries are small but utterly delicious and extremely ripe. It will be a challenge to eat them all before the berries go bad.

Are Clif and I up to the challenge?

You bet we are.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Starting this week for my Friday posts, I’m going to take a leaf from Pop Culture Happy Hour’s book. On that excellent podcast, movies, books, music, and TV shows are reviewed and discussed. On Friday, after the lively discussions, the hosts and guests share what’s making them happy. Not surprisingly, the recommendations are media related.

I’m not sure I’m always going to stick to the media for my happy reports. After all, birds and plants make me very happy. But this week I’m featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela, two dynamic Mexican musicians who got their start in Dublin, thus proving that music is one of the things that binds us all.

So if you’re feeling a little glum by all that’s going in all the world, then click on this link. I challenge you not to tap your feet.

Which Way to the Great Library?

Awhile ago, my friend Beth texted me to ask if I would like a special garden ornament featuring signs to various places in the fantasy world I have created in my novels. She knew I was decluttering—an ongoing process—and  didn’t want to add anything that might seem like a burden.

My fingers couldn’t type “yes” fast enough. First of all, my clutter is inside, not outside in my gardens. Second, gardens fall into a special category, where less is not more, and more is better. Third, a sign with fantasy places from my novels? Yes, yes, yes, please!

Beth delivered the sign a few days ago. (Alas, because of the crappy coronavirus, we couldn’t invite her in for tea.) Yesterday, Clif put together the sign, which we placed in the back garden by the patio, where we can look at it when we sit at the table. As a bonus, I can admire the sign when I do dishes and glance out the kitchen window.

I smile every time I see the sign. Many, many thanks, Beth!

Soon

Today is May 4. Can I resist a Star Wars joke? No, I cannot. May the fourth be with you. After all, in these decidedly unfunny times,  a little humor helps leaven the grimness.

In Maine as well as in other states, governors are gradually reopening their economies—for businesses such as hair salons, barbershops, and pet grooming places. I get it. I really do. Unemployment in this state, in this country, has risen at an alarming rate. People are afraid that they won’t be able to pay their rent or buy food. Business owners are afraid that their doors will be closed for good.

These are real fears. But it would be a gross understatement to note that our government is ill equipped to help everyday people get through this crisis. For the past forty years, we have bought the line that government is not the solution; instead it is the problem. Now we are reaping the results of that philosophy.

In Maine, the virus has seemingly slowed down in terms of new cases and deaths. But the virus is still here, and infection has not reached the standard level of decline—fourteen days—that most experts recommend before opening the economy. As soon as people start gathering and going out in greater numbers, the virus will strike in force. I am worried that we are in for an even rougher time this spring and summer than what we have already had.

On Saturday, we spoke to our New York City daughter, and as we talked, there was a steady wail of sirens in the background. When we asked Dee about it, she said that there were more ambulances than ever rushing through the streets where she lives. I understand this is true everywhere in New York City. With so many people sick and dying, sirens are the primary sound of urban life in this time of the coronavirus. A chilling sound.

But despite the coronavirus, it is spring in Maine, and that means leaves must be removed from the various flower beds. It’s a relief to head outside and work in the yard, to take away the leaves and see what’s coming up.

I’ve made good progress. Since I took the picture below, another bed has been cleared. Weather permitting, I’ll have everything cleared by the end of the week. Then it will be time for moving plants around, a chore I really do enjoy.

Here are a couple of pictures before all the leaves are cleared. Looks like fall, doesn’t it?

Nothing in bloom yet, but the first flowers are in bud.

Soon.

The Gardens in Winter

Blogging friends in New Zealand and Australia have been sharing photos of their beautiful spring gardens. Am I envious? You bet I am. Spring is one of my favorite times of year when everything bursts into glorious life.

Because I live Maine, which is in the northern hemisphere, winter is here, and spring is but a distant dream. I know. Technically it is still fall, but it sure doesn’t feel that way in northern New England.

However, my gardens in winter have their own austere beauty, especially now that I don’t trim back the plants in the fall. This idea came to me from my blogging friend, Jason of Garden in a City, who maintains that it is better for the natural world to leave the stalks and stems until spring. I have been doing this for several years and have become a real fan of this method.

Here are some pictures that I recently took in the front yard. Because we live in the woods, the lighting can be tricksy. This time of year, the sun—low in the sky—flickers briefly across the front yard and hardly makes it to the backyard.

So onward we go, spinning around the sun. Every season has its delights, even winter, whose cold touch stills all that is green and growing.

 

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.

Welcome, July!

July is here, and what a beauty of a day with sun, low humidity, and a temperature that is just right, warm but not too hot. The window by my desk is open, and as I work I can smell the sweet air coming from the trees and the woods. The birds are singing, and when I look outside, I see green, green, green. Nature is calling “come outside.” Unfortunately, I must work at my desk.

June was a cool, rainy month, and while it didn’t bother me personally—I am comfortable in a broad range of temperatures, from 65°F to 82°F—it has not been good for vegetables and hay. Everything is late, late, late, and farmers are worried about how they are going to feed their animals. The fields are too saturated, and the hay can’t be cut. This sounds like an old-fashioned concern from bygone days, but Maine is a rural state blessed with farmers young and old. We have plenty of goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and horses as well as tourists. While drought is never welcomed, I do hope that July, August, and even September will bring abundant sunshine so that the hay can be cut, and the farmers can feed their animals this winter.

The perennials in my gardens are doing well, and here is the view of our front yard.  Still mostly green, with a touch of yellow. I have made my peace with having a garden with subtle colors and have even learned to love it. (But, oh, how I still drool over the gardens of some of my blogging friends. You know who you are.)

Here is a closer look at some of the yellow against, of course, a hosta.

July is the time for fledglings, young birds that are mostly grown up but still follow their parents around and depend on them, at least to some extent, for food. I have an extremely soft spot for these fledglings who are on the cusp of independence. Such a harsh, dangerous world for them, and it touches me to see how the parents tend to clamoring offspring that are no longer small.

Because we live in the woods, we have the opportunity to see the fledglings of many birds—crows, nuthatches, gold finches, to name a few. The other day, it was a woodpecker, eating from the bird feeder and then feeding the fledgling who waited patiently underneath.

Best of luck, fledgling woodpecker! May you thrive and mature to raise families of your own.