Hello everyone! I feel like a bit of a slacker lately, since my cycle/schedule of posting to this here blog seems to have changed so much in the past year. Some of it can indeed be attributed to a little laziness, but the cool rainy days of the past week and a half are largely to blame for encouraging indoor activity, as well.
Also, about the time things start happening in the garden that I want to photograph and share with you there also comes an increased amount of things to be done out there in the Green. And of course, it’s also the busier season at work. So, weee…welcome to June.
Yes, while other things were going on, those breezes off the bay have grabbed the calendar page and turned May Beetles into Junebugs.
Right on schedule, a whole host of roses began blooming around town, adding their sweet scents to the warming air.
The weather in the last few days really has been delightful. We flirted with some 70 degree weather on the weekend, but otherwise we’re enjoying something a little cooler, with nice breezes for keeping the air stirring here in the Nest. Mostly, it’s been rather delightful.
Outside in my little fence garden, the oft-discussed garden heliotrope (AKA, white valerian) has come into the spotlight and in a big way. In this long shot, you can kind of see it at the far end of the fence. And if you look close, you can see that some of its stalks are now more than twice as tall as that fence. Yes, they are a good foot taller than the Midnight Gardener himself. It’s really quite something.
I was thinking about this plant and how it didn’t bloom at all last season, which seems fitting for lots of metaphoric reasons. Technically, though, I remembered that it was in one of the flood-troubled parts of last years garden, where I had to keep raising the soil level to keep the gathering rain waters at bay.
In the process, the heliotrope ended up being planted deeper than it likes (since I added dirt without repositioning the plant), which is probably what short-circuited last year’s bloom cycle. However, all that rain and fresh soil surely encouraged the plant to have grown its roots well in the interrim, resulting in this year’s spectacular show.
I do wish you could smell this delightful flower’s fragrance, it really is something quite lovely. I could struggle in trying to describe it to you, but it’s like talking color without someone who’s always been sightless. All I can do is tell you to look for some in your own landscapes…and if you find some, put your nose right up to these sweet little flowers.
I think you’ll be pleased.
Knowing this will get meta quickly, I’ll ask anyway: would anyone like some Honesty seeds?
You can see the seedpods forming on this plant, as the last of its purple flowers fade. As they dry, they do look more like silver dollars, which is where the name Moneyplant came from. But I really do prefer the name Honesty, since I think the world as a whole could only benefit from more of it.
Of course, too much of anything can be its own burden, including honesty (both the plant and the concept), but let me know if you’d like some seeds. We have plenty.
Sunday here was a day off, and a relatively nice one, at that. Temps climbed into the mid-seventies, but those strong breezes I spoke of kept things reasonable for working in the yard and kept the newly-emerging bugs at bay (although I am now regularly dousing myself in Deep Woods OFF to keep the dreaded ticks off me).
All this was good news, since I’d been itching to get out and give a thorough once-over to the overgrown bed on the south-side of the house. It’s easily seen from the road and from the gardening neighbors’ place next door and although it is full of plants, many of those were grass and weeds.
As usual, I had begun the work before thinking to snap a Before photo and I did a pretty poor job of that, to boot. To me, the process is the more important part, anyhow. At this blog and others, we’ve had this conversation before, about the work one’s hands do while one’s mind is busy with other tasks and opening up a bed like this is always that sort of work for me.
Not only do you get progress that’s easy to see, which encourages you onward, but you end up having some time to focus on your various thoughts and ideas and maybe start to bring them into line. It also can be a very healthy way to sift through whatever negativity you may have on your plate, too…and I’m not alone in thinking that.
“What better way to get over a black mood than an hour of furious weeding! That violent tearing up and casting away the dreadfully healthy demons…clearing away all that stifles and distresses tender plants to give them air and space clears away at the same time all that has been stifling a person.” – May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep.
Yes, May’s words echo with me still and I look forward to visiting some other of her memoirs as the summer progresses.
I am happy to tell you that it wasn’t a black mood that sent me out to work on this bed, but of course, my desire to make things look great. In the process, though, I did find a few things to sort out which might’ve been troubling me a little and found myself a pretty happy camper by afternoon’s end.
Fortunately, too, there was also very little “violent tearing,” since I don’t find that to be especially productive…most of the time. Generally, I like to go in with some tool – a long handled garden rake or a weasel thing – to loosen the soil around the roots of the grass and other things targeted for removal.
But then, I don’t feel I can necessarily do a proper job without being down on my hands and knees, at least for the first session with a particular bed. And no, I don’t wear gloves.
Working barehanded means I’m better able to feel the plants between my fingers. It’s much easier to tell the difference between when a loosened root gives up and comes free of the soil and when it breaks off down below, leaving a piece of root behind with which to stage some future return. Of course, working without gloves requires vigilance for things like poison ivy or the unexpected bit of broken glass. But that was no concern here.
My vigilance during this project was more about Arthur, a small-ish (but almost two feet long) snake we discovered was living behind the stoop that comes out of the house through this particular garden bed. I have little fear of snakes and think they are both cool and also very helpful in the garden. Which isn’t to say that they don’t sometimes startle me, with their good camouflage and sudden movements. My vigilance in this case was more about not harming him/her with my garden tools as I worked. The name, by the way, comes from the Downses, who were the first to discover our slithery new friend.
Largely, this bed is full of assorted hostas, lots of daylilies and a few other things, including some Rose of Sharon. It’s the wrong time of year for transplanting and dividing, or I might have done some of that to both the daylilies and hostas…and there is a plan in place to move that Rose of Sharon, since it will get a little too big to be so close to the side of the house.
But generally, the long bed was greatly improved with just a clean edge and weed removal. Once things were cleaned up, I was able to set up that birdbath pot I made last year and within moments of having water in it, the birds were merrily splashing about.
The Downses and I bought some plants to fill in some of the new open spaces, although they are largely “markers” -things we can see which remind us to water – as that is what all the seeds which I also planted need most right now.
For plants, there were a dozen single-flowered yellow marigolds, a trio of gazanias in yellow and orange, some allyssum (no bed is complete without some, it seems), a nice big plant of beebalm and a small lavendar seedling. When those were in place, I found a nice stick for drawing furrows and poking holes, and planted seeds for two kinds of cosmos (yes, I’m trying that seashell variety again this year), two kinds of zinnias, bachelor’s buttons, oriental poppies and of course, more allyssum.
Here’s a look at the “finished” garden, which really is only well-begun.
While I was working, it did occur to me that it’d been a while since I’d shown my smiling face hereabouts, so here’s a self-portrait of The Gardener, with some lovely two-toned purple irises in the background.
Yes, along with June’s arrival has come a great blooming of irises. I’m still waiting for those in my fence garden to begin their show, but there are plenty elsewhere around town.
Even before Marc‘s recent reminder in Comments, I’ve been eager to get out there and get some photos of all the different varieties I see prettying up the local landscape this past week. Not only are they so pretty, but I was also keen to see about finding some more of those deliciously-scented iris varieties, so I’ll wrap up this long post with a look at some of those beauties.
And I can’t resist starting off with another look at that fantastic old iris around the front of the house. It’s not one of those scented-varieties, but ooh, la la, just the same.
Actually, most of them continue to be unscented, which is just fine. There are certainly plenty of other reasons to enjoy irises. However, this one above, with the crinkly purple edging, did offer a delightful scent similar to Sweet Tarts candy. And there was another maroon one I came across this week that smelled vaguely of chocolate (naturally, I didn’t have my camera for that one).
More often than not, Nature is all about the balance of things, though…and this cream and white colored iris to the right, which you might think from the color could smell of vanilla, actually smelled a little, uhmm…pissy. So the old rules still apply: be careful when you stick your nose into other peoples’ irises.
I’ve seen this purple batik-style iris in catalogs, but it’s really much more impressive in three dimensions and it’s beauty more than makes up for it’s lack of fragrance.