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."

Strewn With Flowers

Antique-Iris

Just look at this fancy iris – this is the one at the front of the house I’ve shown you photos of previously.  It began blooming en masse as our holiday weekend began and just look at it Saturday evening.   Yes, thanks to the lilacs (nearly through with their blooming), May has come and gone and this was Memorial Day weekend, the official beginning of the big season hereabouts.

White-Siberian-Iris

As usual, the roads and stores (and I hear, the beaches and bike trail) were suddenly full with people, way more than we are accustomed to having around here during the peaceful months of winter.

This weekend is always a sort of dress rehearsal, a warning that summer is nearly upon us, and that it is time to not only unpack  the warm season clothes, bug dope, Tevas and patience, but also that we need to remember how to use the back roads when possible, or to get what we need from such places as the grocery store or Christmas Tree shop early in the day, or late in the evening.

Fortunately, we also greeted the holiday weekend with a great blooming of irises here and there.   Perhaps it’s simply my shoddy memory, but I do think in past  years the siberian irises (the white and blue here) generally bloom before the German bearded irises (above and below, the sweet purple).   This year, there was a difference of days before they were all blooming together.   Actually, it’s a nice effect.

Blue-Siberian-Iris

Purple-OJT-iris

The weather for the long weekend was not quite stellar, I’m sorry to say, but I tried to use that to my advantage.  It was pretty clear Saturday morning that it was going to rain before long, so I made a quick (ish, discovering that business about the traffic for the first time this year, in the process) run over to town to pick up a few things I’d been thinking of planting in that garden bed down in back which I tidied up a few weeks back.

Gerbera-and-Lobelia-with-co

The bed is already pretty full with hostas and hydrangeas and lily of the valley and shasta daisies, but there were still great patches of open space and the need for some annual color which will dress things up throughout the comings and goings of perennials blossoms.   I found a pair of nice hot (orange and red) gerbera daisies to start.  Actually, I’d been eyeing these two  throughout the week.   I’ve used a couple of these a few times as bedding plants (I’d love to do a whole bed with them, maybe arranged in their rainbow progression, but they are a little pricey…) and they never fail to delight.

I surrounded them with a dozen calendula seedlings, which have similar daisy-like flowers throughout the summer, but in orange, yellow and cream tones.  Calendula is a terrific plant that I don’t think is planted often enough.   During one of my early summers as a full-on gardener, I was looking to buy the traditional masses of marigolds and learned from a nurserywoman that marigolds tend to deplete the soil they are grown in, and so should be rotated to different spots each year (or the soil in that same spot amended).

Calendula-and-Nicotiana

Calendula were what she suggested to me as an alternative and it was love at first bloom.  I don’t think a garden can possibly have too many different plants that make sweet daisy-style flowers.   As a bonus, they are an edible flower, so they can be fun to toss into the summer garden salad as an unexpected visual for picnics and garden parties.

I also planted six white nicotiana (you can see one fixing to bloom in the photo), which will serve as a transition into the shadier part of the bed under the lilac, which I plan to shortly underplant with impatiens.  Meanwhile, the nicotiana were also important for being the first tobacco I’ve purchased in over 310 days!

To finish off all those wonderful colors, I also planted a trio of waterfall blue lobelia, which will hopefully thrive and cascade over the rock edging of these two beds.   I’m pleased to say that things went according to plan and as I slipped the last plant’s roots into the soil and filled in around it, the rain began.

Red-Gerbera

Sunday began my two days off, though I was sorry to note that the weather was just as tentative as on Saturday.  Maybe even worse, since Saturday had turned out to be a nice sunny late afternoon, after those showers.   Sunday bore a “50% chance” of showers and that was pretty much what we got.   Would that I could tell you that it rained for half the day and then was lovely.   Technically, this was true, though really it seemed more like 50% of each hour.

Pansies-two

This didn’t stop me from exploring the gardens, where the pansies were eager for some dead-heading, but still merrily blooming their happy little heads off.   The irises in my driveway fence garden are preparing to bloom, but look like they will hold off a little longer, extending what already seems like a quick start to the irises’ big number.

Nearby, the globe alliums (there are three of them in a row) have filled out to their full globe shape and are quite fun to look at.   Here’s one with the lower stalks of the soon-to-be-blooming (but now already taller than me) heliotrope as background.

Globe-Allium

Columbine

I was also excited to discover that the columbine had come fully into bloom and is in fact the pinky-purple hybrid I’d encouraged in Eastham and moved to Harwich with me.  I can’t wait to cross it with Butch’s deep blue variety and see if I can’t get some deep purple as a result.  Fingers crossed, but in the meantime, just loving the look of this pretty little flower.

Tiny-Mallow

And speaking of pretty little flowers, Sunday afternoon also brought me a little vindication, as I had thought the unknown foliage in the fence garden might have been some kind of mallow…and just look at the lovely little flowers it began producing this weekend!  Oh, how I love it when things work out.

As I said, the weather on Sunday was an on-again, off-again affair and after a few false starts, I eventually changed my plan to focus on a bit of housekeeping, but also some wonderful holiday weekend sloth.  A lazy dog prefers a patch of sunlight, but can make do with a rainy afternoon quite nicely, after all.

Days here are pretty noisy, lately.  I’m not talking of the new influx of back-up beepers that comes with road-resurfacing projects, or the increased frequency of sirens on the highway or car alarms in parking lots bloody-everywhere.   No, I mean the birds.   Now there’s robins, grackels, crows, chickadees, finches, sparrows, orioles, cardinals, blue jays, hawks (also bluejays that sound like hawks) and the singing never stops, at least until the sun goes down.

In the night hours over the weekend, I had noted that there was a solitary bird who could occasionally be heard singing a small snip of one of its daytime songs at scattered intervals in the darkness.  The late hour and lack of other birdsong made it seem just a little sad and plaintive and I sort of enjoyed hearing it now and then, though I wondered what makes a bird sing in the night like that.  Were there new eggs hatching?   The pressing need to find a mate?   Perhaps it was just an irresistable urge to sing a little – I can relate to that.

So when I recognized the song out the window Sunday afternoon, I dashed to see just who it was.  I believe this is a song sparrow, though my photos through old windows were not as clear as they might have been.  But in any case,  this is certainly the night-time songster, who you can see was even more taken with singing in mid-afternoon.

Sparrow-Sings

Fittingly, the most beautiful and sunny part of the weekend came on Monday, when we gathered in town center to honor those who’ve fallen in service to our country over the years.  Of course, this is the origin of our long summer-starting holiday weekend, when Decoration Day was declared following the carnage of the American Civil War, as a day to honor those who gave their lives in defense of the freedoms of the rest of us.

Down-to-the-Sea

Too often during these holiday weekends, we are overwhelmed with making a beach-head at K-Mart, or battling tourists in nursery rows, or doing hand-to-hand combat near the ice cream coolers or the deli counter in the grocery to pay attention to the purpose for which the weekend’s been set aside.  We forget to spare a thought or two for the real battles fought by our brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents which have helped make our nation what it is today.

Until recently, we weren’t supposed to make mention or show photos of the coffins of our war dead from recent conflicts, so it seemed especially right that the day to honor our Fallen was the pick of the weekend.

Such a tribute is the least of what they deserve.

Parade's-End

Rosa-Rugosa

I was excited to discover, during the short ceremony in town that the rugosa roses (which are part of the World War I memorial garden, but also grow wild hereabouts almost everywhere) had come into bloom to greet the weekend.  Ah, those sweet, silky blossoms that blow on the ocean breeze, the bright shiny foliage…that wonderful fragrance.  Be still, my heart.

Martha-Washington-geranium

My deck gardening efforts have been minimal, while I wait for the deck rebuilding.   That has now been delayed by the OCD robin in residence on the underside of my deck.  She has now built no less than five nests down there and thank goodness she’s run out of rafters.   It’s rather silly, really, since robins are territorial and seem unlikely to let anyone nest so close to them.  I can’t imagine she’s keeping eggs in all five (I suppose it could be a bit of a shell-game for predators…), though we do believe she’s incubating in one of them.

But I can’t help myself, either, and slowly I’m getting assorted planters freshenened up and planted for the season.   I haven’t done too much container gardening over the years, and very little of it in recent years, so it’s kind of fun to turn my attention to some of that.   You’ve seen me pot up individual plants, such as the mint, or the morning glories or the potful of sweetpeas.   But I do like the making of miniature gardens that combine all sorts of different things.

Window-Box-1

How do I start?  Well, first, I let that gardening mania take hold for a bit and collect a plant or two that I like the look of.  In this case, it was this stellar Martha Washington geranium I got for a song at Trader Joe’s last week.  I haven’t grown this particular variety of geranium before, but one look at the flowers and the bright green foliage and I was eager to try.

At first, I had thought to keep it in a pot of its own, but then realized Monday afternoon how nicely it could be featured in one of my windowbox planters, with some purple petunias, white lobelia and a pair of dracaena spikes for a little vertical accent.   Actually, all I realized was that I needed planting companions and so off I went once more to the nursery to see what I might find.  I might also scatter a bit of allyssum seed in there, just to fill in the holes and to ensure it has that bountiful overflowing look.

The rest, as they say, is history, or soon will be, anyhow.  Just like the weekend.

Window-Gazing

Sunset-at-K-Rock

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Comments on: "Strewn With Flowers" (14)

  1. Nice shot of that singing sparrow, mid-warble! I want to see that calendula salad when you make it. And your gorgeous sunset pics are like signatures at the end of your posts.

    Birdie, I mostly meant the calendula to be an edible garnish, a nice surprise atop of a bowl of potato or macaroni salad or something…but with the right dressing…

    Glad you liked the sunset!

  2. Very pretty flowers :)

    Thanks, Indigo!

  3. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The pictures are beautiful as usual. But how did those German irises smell?? The yellow/brown ones usually don’t smell terrific, but the blue or purple ones usually do! :-)

    Heh heh. Hey Bokey. I knew there was something I forgot to mention, though I’d surely have remembered if I had more positive news to report. Thus far, I’ve stumbled across no delightfully-scented irises, which isn’t to say I haven’t been sticking my nose in. I’ve got my eye on some I hope to check out on a walk tomorrow evening, if the weather allows. Love how fabulous your clematis vine is looking!

  4. Salina Inzaghi said:

    haha wish the blog is in 4D..so we get to touch n smell those flowers as well ;)

    Ah, Salina, here at the Midnight Garden, we’ve been pining for Smell-o-vision for years!

  5. by all appearances my columbines didn’t survive the winter. i can’t think why. they were well covered with snow so well insulated. :( it makes me quite unhappy though.

    Oh, what a sadness. Here’s hoping they are merely testing your faith and will reappear shortly…or new seedlings, at least. If not, let me know and I’ll send you some seed!

  6. Of such an array of beauty, I think I’m most excited about the columbines. Way back in my ancient days I saw wild columbines growing in the high mountains in Colorado. My dad took us on a week long backpacking journey. There were some gorgeous flowers, but my favorites were the columbines.

    I couldn’t carry the backpack now, much less climb a mountain with it. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

    I’m glad to bring the mountain – or at least some columbine – to you, my dear. They sure are pretty flowers and I enjoy the way they cross with one another, creating ever new versions of themselves. At least that’s my plan. Yep, the columbines and me are gonna take over the World. (bwa ha ha)

  7. Your flowers are absolutely beautiful, Greg. Love that colour of Columbine you have as well. Good luck with trying for a dark purple hybrid. My blue columbines are finally up. They follow the white coloured ones by about a week. I’ll try and get some pictures out soon.

  8. Oh wow! This was like coming home. I am so happy just from seeing your flower photos. This is the first summer I’ve not had the time I need for gardening but hope to do a bit. Even some sunny old marigolds, anything. Can’t live without flowers. And that Sunset photo is just to die for. My word, I miss the coast. So odd that I’m in the southwest and love it so much — the big skies and ancient land and wide open spaces — and yet I miss the sea and lakes of back east. You are in one of the most beautiful places. I’ve missed your site as well. So good to soak in your intense love of Life…in everything you do. It’s who you are my friend. :)) Hugs, Robin

    Hi Robin! Welcome back to the garden. You’re always welcome to enjoy the flowers here, of course, but I do hope you’ll have time for a little gardening of your own.

    There is SO much beauty on our planet, it’s hard to pick out favorite places (don’t they all have something to offer?). Meanwhile, the ocean says “hey”.

  9. Thanks for the wonderful shots of the garden & wildlife… such a great blog!

  10. The flowers are beautiful as always. I love the brown iris. How unusual. I’ve never seen one. The alium looks like what we have so many of here called agapanthas I believe. But it’s more a lavender shade.

  11. You make the world (and the blogosphere) a more beautiful place. Thanks.

  12. Your garden is shaping up nicely. Love gerberas, they are too expensive. And I’m also glad I “discovered” calendulas. Wouldn’t ever want to be without them now.

  13. GREG! GREG! You would be so proud of me! Today I was walking with a friend on a rail trail and we came upon a bed of blue wildflowers. I recognized them instantly as bachelor’s buttons AKA cornflowers—thanks to you—and I was able to impress my friend with the information. This may be all I know, but it was enough today. Thank you!

    Hee hee, Birdie, this is great news! Ah, grasshoppah, you good student. Also, jealous of your bachelor’s buttons in bloom! Only planted my seeds of them this past weekend! As I recall from last summer, you also know daylilies, too!

  14. Thanks for showing the heliotrope’s progress in this and other posts. The purple marine version is all I have experience with. It’s great, but it’s nice to get to know its kinfolk. And the allium is great. Must get me some bulbs for next season.

    It’s interesting to think that the number of your blooms roughly correlates to the number of people in town. So we go from the quiet winters with occasional blooms indoors to full-on tourist season with the gardens going wild…

    James, are you suggesting my flowers are tourists? The notion makes me realize that I know little about whether or not the plants at my favorite nurseries are locally grown.

    Glad you’ve enjoyed the heliotrope’s progress – it is certainly enjoying a banner season! It will be interesting to see if it blooms a second time after deadheading, as I’ve occasionally had them do that, on a very small scale. I did pick up a pair of very nice sized (for the price) marine heliotropes, who’s fragrance is not exactly the same as the white valerian with which it shares a name.

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