One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

That Magical Light


There is much written about the quality of light here on Cape Cod. Because we are surrounded on three sides by water, there’s an extra reflected light that plays across everything. This is particularly evident in Provincetown, where the water is so close on every side.

It was this light, after all, that inspired the modern impressionist painting movement that took place in PTown in the early days of the last century, which in turn was one of several factors that transformed that fishing village at the very tip of the Cape into an artist colony.

Every now and then, I come across a bit of this magical light and it seems to transform every image I capture with the camera into something almost unreal, too beautiful.

My photographs end up looking more like paintings than more realistic depictions of the world around me. It’s pretty amazing.

Today was one of those days, morning and evening, when the light was just incredible and I was a little dumbstruck at some of what I found on my camera’s memory card at day’s end. You get the best effect when you enlarge the images, so go ahead and click ’em.

By the very nature of it being June, there’s tons going on out there in the garden. Although that blasted “witch grass” is staging a massive comeback almost everywhere, there are also plenty of other seedlings taking hold.

Every morning I spend at least a few minutes carefully teasing at some of the grass, trying to get rid of it. It will clearly be an ongoing project.

Meanwhile, here’s one of a number of bachelor button seedlings I am seeing here and there. I’ve tried to be extra careful about weeding out the grass too fervently, as these guys are a little thin and strappy in their early stages, and I’ve been known to accidentally weed all but a few out in early June purges in past years.

In the past two days, I’ve noticed that some of the snapdragon plants have doubled in height, surpassing that lower fence rail as flower buds appear at the top of their stalks. It will be interesting to see which color is going to bloom first. I suspect it will be the yellow ones, but the next few days will tell.

In addition to a few more milkweed seedlings, I’ve also spotted a few rosettes of evening primrose foliage. It’s sort of weedy around these parts, growing wild here and there. Last year I had some good luck with chopping it back fairly hard to get it to branch out more, so I’ll try to remember to do that sometime in the next day or so. I’ve noted the oregano plants are ready for that, too.

On the chosen fence posts, the morning glory seedlings are doing quite nicely, making some nice headway in their climb toward the sun.

In the bedroom window are a last six or seven of them, started later for a second wave of bloom as the summer progresses, which are ready to be planted out adjacent to these.

On the side of Mount Dump-It (that lumpy little hill in our backyard that houses the septic system), several massive clumps of tickseed are thriving, their golden flowers glowing in the bright morning sunshine, bobbing easily on the gentle breeze.

In another part of the forest, more of these red roses open every day. I’m just thrilled with the way this rose bush has responded to being trained along the fence. I’ve mostly read about working/playing with roses and rarely had the conditions to really see what they could do, which makes this season kind of exciting to me.

Also, between these and those ubiquitous little white roses, the air is so strongly perfumed this week that it almost makes me a bit giddy to walk out into the front yard, morning or night. Isn’t it fascinating how this product of attracting pollinators in turn makes us all a little gah-gah, too?

The season of love, indeed.

If you enlarge that shot above, you can see in the background some big shiny leaves just above the top rail of the fence…which would be the sunflower seedlings. They are really too big now to be reasonably considered “seedlings”, but they are still my babies.

Monday morning I took a photo of them to show you they had almost come level with that top cross rail…but by the time I got home in the evening, the photo had become obsolete, as the seedlings were by then several inches taller than the rail of the fence!

Don’t get too close!

Not far from that rose, in the shade of a clump of shasta daisies creeps this itty-bitty (it’s maybe a quarter of an inch in diameter, if that)orange flower.

Somewhere, I have an old wildflower guide book from the 1950’s, which has been pretty helpful for me in the past, in identifying the tiny blossoms like these, which are often a little too obscure for other more general plant guides.

However, that old book is MIA just now, likely displaced during last winter’s move and not yet resurfaced. I’ll have to dig around, though–I’m pretty sure it’d help me name this one.

On one of the five mounds which are home to the Three Sisters garden project, the first bean seedling burst out of the ground this morning. I noticed by flashlight this evening that several others came out during the course of the day.

It makes me happy to see this coming along so nicely. Once a few more of those have emerged, it’ll be time to add the squash seeds…and then the game will be truly afoot.

It bums me out just a little that the peonies won’t be blooming this year, due – I believe – to the trauma of moving. They would be making their own heady additions to the perfumey air this week, if they were, their hot pink flowerheads lolling and bobbing on the breezes.


Another aspect of June has things a little busier at work, but fortunately, I’m still able to steal the odd moment here or there to wander into the garden and catch a few images of the magic happening there.

The purple irises have never been more prolific than they are this spring, it seems. Actually, I’m hearing from a variety of people that irises are having a particularly stellar spring. But still, their time will have fled before too long, as they clear the stage for other flowers to have their moment in the spotlight and I couldn’t let that go without another look at them.

Here you might note some of that rose grandiflora (I think that’s the name of those little white guys I keep talking about, though it could be multiflora), and this particular plant is a good indicator of how vigorous they are.

I’ve worked at the restaurant for seven years now. When I started there, this particular plant–now better than two feet high, equally wide and smothered in blossoms–didn’t exist there, but has arrived via the birds and taken hold rather quickly. Kept in check, it’s not a bad addition to the garden.

Did I mention the fragrance?? I do hope you are all seeking out some nicely scented roses to thrust your noses into this week.

It’s also fun to realize how much this spirea has grown in that time. I’m wondering if it is the same variety as the ones I have along the fence at home, which are not quite blooming yet.

Those, if memory serves, are a little darker than these, though they have also grown in some high shade areas in recent years. Their colors might’ve been a little richer for that. We’ll see how they do in this year’s full sun.

I transplanted these wild daisy plants at the base of the pond wall about four years ago, and they have filled in the whole area quite nicely.

This is their first wave of flowers, but with deadheading, they’ll continue to blossom right through the summer. Who could ask for anything more?

I took a longer route home this evening, allowing me to pass by the overlook of Wychmere Harbor, not far from our house. I knew the full moon was low in the sky and was hoping for some decent reflection to play with from the water. I hadn’t thought to be lucky enough to find things so nicely lit.

There was also some sort of celebration going on down by the water, with the happy, lively sounds of people and their merriment echoing brightly across the harbor in the dark.

The golden power of the sun, the heart-tripping scent of roses and the goony glow of the moon, could there be anything more magical?

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