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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.