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."


For those of you unfamiliar with them, these delightful blue flowers are Forget-Me-Nots.   They are sweet little flowers (each one barely as big as the tip of my pinky finger) with an even sweeter sentiment attached and in so many ways, they feel like the perfect flower for Mother’s Day.  How perfect that they should be in full-bloom when I arrived in Connecticut to explore Mom’s garden with her.


Yes, my friends, I have been briefly away.   After wrapping up a Saturday afternoon event earlier than expected (and enjoying some phone time with a good friend while I packed) I loaded up the car and headed out for Mom and Dad’s, arriving there just after midnight.   We visited for a while, until the hours were truly wee, and then settled in for a quick overnight of sleep.

Morning met us bright and warm, with golden sunlight flooding the house and we were up to enjoy coffee and breakfast before launching into a day of outdoor stuff.   It’s always fun to spend time with Mom and Dad and this time I also got to share some of their current adventures in home-making, as the house is in a bit of disarray with a kitchen/dining room renovation project just recently underway.   At Easter, there were shapes drawn on the walls, where a pass-through window and new outlets would be cut out, and other shapes to indicate where new cabinets will live and such.

Now many of those have actually been cut out, as well as some holes in the ceiling for new lighting fixtures and such.   All that meant the kitchen was offering only limited use (and the dining room not at all) so we enjoyed our breakfast al fresco, on the back deck in the warm morning sunshine, which was hardly a hardship at all…especially with the scent of lilacs flavoring the air.

By the way, I can’t claim to know what those tiny white flowers are to the left above.   They were simply growing in a bit of lawn near a hedge and they were lovely as anything.   Whatever they may be, they clearly must be encouraged.


As our Cape Cod lilacs were still mostly in bud only when I left, these Connecticut honeys were my first real taste of their sweet fragrance for the year.  Isn’t it delightful (mostly) how scents can transport you to other times and other memories?


These are right on the edge of Mom and Dad’s yard, actually the plants of their next-door neighbors, and they are located in the lower corner of the back yard where clippings and such are gathered in the underbrush where the ground slopes away.   As I worked on weeding and tidying up garden beds throughout the day, I regularly walked back to empty my full bucket of plucked tree seedlings and such…and each time, I’d enter this purple cloud of fragrance that just seemed to grab me in its arms and tickle me ’til I giggled.

What memories are they that come back to me with lilacs?   Old ones, to be sure, since moving around these last ten years has offered me little opportunity for establishing any of these wonderful plants.

I suppose I find myself spinning through thoughts of spring dances and weddings hosted at work, with lilac centerpieces, but also many fondly-recalled picnic weekends for Memorial Days with friends in the Adirondacks(they bloom a little later in the month up there)…and maybe there’s a few even mistier memories of my New Jersey childhood, where we had a lovely lilac bush off our back porch.


I brought Mom a few plants to help populate the new gardens – some dianthus and a few lily bulbs and a cool red-leaved hens and chicks plant – but I didn’t get to plant those while I was there.   The existing gardens are just packed with plants, though there is not much order to it all.  The previous owners of the house apparently Landscaped to Sell and sort of dropped plants in the ground without much thought to culture and growth habits and such.

Still, the garden beds are just packed with some wonderful raw materials for making a fantastic garden and it was a real pleasure to walk around with Mom and identify all the different things we found.

This small bed off the patio was the first place I started working, removing some grass and other weeds from the bed, while tidying up the brick edging which was looking a little unkempt at winter’s end.  So as Dad worked on Mom’s new potting bench (visible behind the garden here), I got to work cleaning up this bed and re-seating the edging. 


You can sort of see here there are two clumps of green and white leaved hostas, the old ubiquitous variety known years ago as funkia.   They are not as attractive as other, more recent cultivars and we talked about moving those out of this bed at some point, but didn’t get to that this weekend.  The larger green clumps with the long narrow leaves are actually great masses of asiatic lily sprouts, obviously the remains of a pot purchased and dropped in the ground.

Sorry to say that while giving those a close once-over I was able to give Mom and Dad a lesson on the dreaded and dreadful lily leaf beetle, an introduction to which their former colder Adirondack gardening zone had spared them.   We killed a few of them by hand (the only way, if not terribly efficient and sort of gross, to boot) and found some of their tiny orange eggs hidden on the underside of some leaves, but it’s unlikely that we completely eradicated the problem.

The beetles have become more prominent in the northeast and I remember reading that scientists were working on developing a wasp which might feed on them, but with no large successes yet.   The beetles set up housekeeping in the bulbs underground and then climb the lily stalks, fornicating and laying their eggs on the underside of the new leaves.   The larvae feed on the leaves as they are born, turning a beautiful stalk into a ravaged stick.   Initially, the plants will still flower, but in time, the whole plant will die.

Meanwhile, the only pesticide which effects them also gives fish and frogs multiple heads and creates other dreadful side effects in the environment, too.   So, the best method all around – if the yuckiest – is the pick and squeeze method.  : )~

(I was too quick to crush them and didn’t get any photos for you this time around, but if you click on the category tag for them, that should link you to some older images of the evil little bastards.)


The rest of the afternoon was spent working my way around the house, through each bed in its turn, trying to remove tree seedlings from nearby maples and also generally loosening up the compacted soil and working some other weeds out, while also continuing to identify assorted things growing within.


Mom planted a great bunch of pansies all over the place before Easter and they are continuing to bloom their little heads off, as pansies are wont to do this time of year.   Some will need to be moved soon to shadier locations, so they might have a better chance of thriving through the long hot summer ahead, but for now, they are bringing wonderful bits of color to accompany other floral neighbors who’ve appeared, like the pink and purple creeping phlox, which has spread into great masses.  Mom has already begun dividing those and transplanting them into places where she’d like to see them thrive.

Additionally, a number of tiny viola plants have popped up here and there, their smaller faces adding to the cheery picture.  I loved the array of colors on them, which were pretty striking…and those little faces.  So cute.



Those of you who’ve been visiting the Midnight Garden for a year or more will be familiar with the deep bluey-purple ajuga I introduced you to last spring in the Harwich garden.   While it makes me momentarily wistful to think back on how well it was spreading itself around last summer and wonder what it must look like this year, those thoughts were sort of whisked away by my discovering this pink version of the plant creeping it’s way through one of Mom’s front of house beds.

Not far away, I found this lovely purple beauty down below, which I believe is a relative of the creeping veronica/speedwell I also met in that garden last year.  This one makes little spires of these delightful blossoms, and I think I like it even better than the other one.



You might recall when I visited Mom and Dad for Easter, I spied what appeared to be a great many violet plants in the lawn throughout the property.   I’m absolutely thrilled to tell you that there were even more of them than I had quite imagined back then, and two different varieties, at that!

I’ve always been a fan of these precious lovelies, which I remember growing in Mom’s gardens when I was pretty young.  They often seem like a prehistoric version of the cultivated pansies and violas we enjoy in gardens today, which is not untrue, really.  They are most certainly the distant relatives of those more fancy and refined and varied whippersnappers, but not without a certain level of elegance and class themselves, despite those weed-sayers who try to put them down as lawn invaders to be – gasp – eradicated.

But don’t take my word for it.   Let them speak for themselves, eh?




The afternoon fled more quickly than I’d liked, as there remained plenty to do.  But then, that’s the joy of the garden, perhaps, that there is always something to occupy one’s hands, heart and mind.  I think I cleaned things up pretty well and loosening the soil and weeding should help to allow Mom to enjoy her planting and arranging and designing more.

After cleaning up from our day of yardwork, we made our way across town to Sue and Joe’s (my sister and bro-in-law), who hosted us for a delightful Mother’s Day dinner, which was already quite tasty even before we seasoned it with a little wine and great gales of laughter and merriment. 

All in all, t’was a pretty great day.   One we will hopefully forget not.   ; )


I had a beautiful day for traveling back toward the Cape on Monday and since I had few plans upon my return, I decided to indulge in one of my other favorite hobbies, which I don’t get to play at often at home, where the railroad tracks have largely been replaced with bike trails.  

Don’t get me wrong – I love the bike trails, but I do miss getting to watch amazing trains in action, so it was great fun sidetracking myself to a spot alongside the Northeast Corridor to enjoy a bit of railroad action to break up the journey.


Although I can easily be thrilled by the appearance of just about any train, I was specifically on the hunt for one of our Modern Ages recent advances, the impressively fast high-speed Acela trains which run regularly between Boston, New York and Washington.  There are plenty of YouTube clips which have kept me entertained in my train-free part of the world, but I wanted to see one up close and personal, to be standing there alongside the tracks when one came whipping past.

While I was trackside, I enjoyed several, one of which took me completely by surprise, when I had the camera set up to capture a different train coming from another direction.   They are nearly soundless until they are upon you and then suddenly the train is there and then gone, leaving only a hot breeze in its wake to rustle the trees and rattle nearby fences.

I was lucky in my railfanning (a friend tried to correct me to “trainspotting”, but I replied that that’s more a British Isles slang, I believe, not to mention it also bearing the stigma of shooting heroin simultaneously, as in the film of the same name…) in that I was able to see a variety of railroad action during the short time I got off the highway, with an assortment of MBTA commuter trains and a bit of local freight switching, too.


The MBTA’s taking a bit of heat this week, what with the recent T trolley crash for which engineer texting is blamed and this more recent incident.   Hopefully they will take these troubles and turn them into renewed safety and efficiency.   Certainly in these days of skyrocketing fuel costs, railroads are poised to make a big comeback to their former glory…or perhaps an all-new glory.  

But anyway, the MBTA can’t be all bad, not as long as they continue to use these fabulous purple locomotives, eh?  ; )


As for the ACELA, I was fortunate enough to see a few of those during the course of my visit and even when it blew past on a track behind another train where I couldn’t see it, I was most impressed.  

Still, the highlight of the day was this last train I saw, heading inbound for Boston and flying by at speeds I hesitate to imagine.   It looks a little scary, I suppose, to the uninitiated, but I can assure you that as it went past, I was wedged comfortably – and safely – between a metal pole and a stone post, so only my curly locks were mussed by it’s passing.

The still photos are nice, of course, but these last two images are actually vid captures from some movies I shot (thus the slightly pink cast to the sky) – after all, only video does proper justice to the Acela in Action.

You can check out my highlights reel from the afternoon, if you’ve a mind.  (I’m still fiddling with how to perfect these movies, so its not a bad idea for now to tell you to turn the volume down a smidge…)




Comments on: "Mom’s Garden: A Roadtrip" (5)

  1. i love pansies and violets (also called johnny jump-ups here) i adore their little faces.

    lilacs, on the other hand, are much despised in our household because at least two are very allergic and smelling them creates headaches of significant proportions. when we lived across town there were a couple of the bushes outside our front door. bran clipped off all the blooms and put them in the compost. we had the most perfumed compost in the neighbourhood. another plant that creates similar problems are peonies.

    my all time favourite plants are bleeding hearts, snap dragons, columbine and sundry lilies, especially day lilies. mostly the favourites are ones that don’t have high scents.

    Dykewife! You’ll be pleased to know I should have a few columbine flowers maybe within the week…and of course, there’ll be no lack of lilies and snapdragons as the season progresses!!

  2. birdoparadise said:

    Holy cow! Those last two trains were startling! You’ve got, uh, nerve to stand there with that camera. Dang.

    That adrenaline circumvented the pastoral zen of your post. But that’s okay, I liked it.

    Sometimes the best part of a garden is something truly unexpected! ; )

  3. I have the usual purple violets, the white with purple violets, and this year, I found pure white violets growing in my dad’s garden. I saved them from being rotor-tilled to death. I ended up with four plants of them. I’ve never seen violets like these before. Once I took pictures and once I download them onto the computer I’ll post them on my site.

    Charles, can’t wait to see those white violets! They sound delightful!

  4. Your lilacs are breaking my heart, Greg. Have you seen Butch’s?

    What a perfectly delightful trip to Connecticut. I love trains too, and train travel, and old train stations, and took the scenic Lakeshore Limited between NY and Ann Arbor many times in my youth. I do wish that T. E. Lawrence hadn’t shown the arabs how easily a great power could be thwarted by blowing up its train tracks. That’s the paradox of trains and empires – awesomely powerful yet absurdly vulnerable. It’s a paradigm of a bygone era. I think the future of travel, and great powers, lies in the development of efficient, economical, coordinated, discrete, and easy to replace units. Remember the Peking Olympics opening ceremonies? That. Trains, like many beautiful but heartbreaking artifacts, are analog. I don’t imagine they’ll ever be obsolete entirely, but the future, indeed the present, is digital.

    I’m sorry I can’t share the lilacs with you in person, dear Jeaux; they are quite lovely. Then again, you have plenty of lovely tropical things we can only dream of here.

    I do like to think that in some way or another, trains will always be around, perhaps because (remember, it’s my dream) we’ll have learned the folly of destruction, particularly in war.

    In the meantime, though, if we are indeed making the leap to all things digital, it’s good I’m becoming so proficient at Railroad Tycoon! ; )

  5. I love how forget me nots are the colour of the sky :) And I am so glad you love pansies as much as I do, we have a whole mixed bunch of them doing well in our garden too. I can’t believe it – there are NO LILACS in our immediate vicinity, so I don’t even know how close to flowering they are in London, makes me want to get on my bike and look for some!

    I’ll be sure to pop over and see if you find any!

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