It’s a gray and overcast Solstice Sunday here, and so I’m meeting the new season with an assortment of household projects. There’s never a bad time to introduce a little more order to the chaos, eh? But first…
Mainly I’ve been showing you my work in the gardens down below. But I’m also focussing on a different kind of garden this year, so I can have flowers just outside the door to enjoy on my deck. I know I shared photos when I planted up the first window box, this one above with the purple petunias, pink Martha Washington geranium and white lobelia. As you can see, it’s doing very nicely, although the persistant rain has been making short work of the flowers.
Recently, I think it was during last weekend’s great frenzy of stuff, my first morning glory bloomed. These are the ones I planted in February, most of which died off (it was too soon for them, easy to see that now). There are two vines which have hung on, not doing too much yet, mostly making some leaves low to the ground…and then last week, one of them offered a pair of flowers, also made brief by the rain.
This one is the Star of Yalta variety. I’d also planted Heavenly Blues, and replanted a bunch of those in this container. Hopefully they will be as eager to grow as they were a few months back, since the conditions are certainly nicer now.
Walt Whitman wrote, in Song of Myself,
“A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”
The driveway garden is doing nicely. The hedge of roses is blooming very nicely now, though I am sorry to note that they are not particularly strong-fragranced. The delightful Gypsy Princess iris bloomed just twice, leaving us all wanting more. The allyssum seeded months back is beginning to blossom along the edges of the bed, mingling with the spreading pansies who always clamor for deadheading in this wet weather. I’ve even spotted a seedling of the dayflower, that old-timey tiny blue wildflower I discovered in Eastham a few years back, which keeps following me around.
A few glimmers of lily stalks appear amongs everything else and buds are forming on the shasta daisies, thread-leaf coreopsis and a former seedling of rudbeckia which migrated from Harwich with me. I don’t know which plant it came from, so the blossom colors are the source of some minor suspense. The chrysanthemums are branching well to my regular pinchings, which are due to end as the month comes to a close. The honesty/money plant seed pods are maturing. Honesty seeds? Anyone, anyone? Bueller…?
You can see that the rain hasn’t done much to dampen the spirits of the towering garden heliotrope, whose flowers are rarely this tall or this long-lived. Their scent has muted a little as the bloom continues, but its still there when one brings one’s nose up close…and every now and them, a hint of the fragrance makes it in the kitchen window upstairs, just like Missus Webb enjoyed so in Our Town.
To the right in this image of the deck garden, you can see it’s purple cousin, Marine Heliotrope, blooming nicely up above. I’m not sure exactly how, if at all, these two plants are related, except by name…which actually means to follow the sun.
Their fragrances are similar, although the marine variety is somehow a little more amazing to me, maybe because so many people think it smells like different things. My theory is that it messes with our pleasure centers somehow, so that it smells like the things we enjoy best. As theories go, it’s probably a crock, but go on, disprove me.
Here you can also see – from left to right, the planter soon to be full of morning glories, a pot of some pansies and some of those yellow violas I bought with Heather way back in the days when venturing outdoors without winter coats and hats still seemed a good idea (I heard recently that hers are still living as well, which is fun! Yay, Heather!), above is a hanging fuschia – last year’s model, actually, having survived a winter indoors – which is not yet thinking of blooming, and the heliotrope. I have two pots of the latter, which I move around to various places on the deck. I’ve noticed that it’s fragrance is almost always sneaking in the door or an open window. Not a complaint in sight about that, to be sure.
I’m very fond of the way the second window box turned out. For this one, I opted for some great looking grocery store plants. I usually steer clear of them, since they can tend to sit around a bit and get neglected sometimes. But these were, at the time, newly-arrived and very healthy looking…and just the right combination of colors. First were two pots of large-flowered zinnias, the yellow and orangey-red catching my eye as a fun combination.
Nearby was a pot of medium sized marigolds (left), in quite a broad range of colors and styles. To cool them all down, I added three very nice plants of waterfall blue lobelia, which are filling in nicely around everything else. In the photo below, you can see this planter in a group shot with another pot of that yellow viola, the second marine heliotrope and the montauk daisy, still in its container. In the foreground is my pot of spearmint.
Hiding in the back row, virtually-unseen here, is a mini rose which was the only recognizable thing growing in these windowboxes. Although you can tell from this pic, it’s responding very well to having a pot of its own in which to stretch its roots. Can’t wait to see what sort of blooms it offers.
The deck, with its view into nearby treetops and across the broad expanse of the yard, is a terrific spot for birding, as well as simply hanging out and enjoying the afternoon. Here’s a shot of a catbird I took from out there last week, when I was playing around with Kate’s camera. The beak on this bird looks odd, more like a cardinal or a grosbeak, than the thinner one bird guides attribute to the catbird, but perhaps its just a trick of the angle or the telephoto lens.
Of course, sometimes the thing you like to do (in this case, birding) also becomes unwise, because of the very thing itself and as I have mentioned previously, Mama and Papa Robin have – in this past week – become a little more aggressive about minding their nest, which suddenly means patrolling whos clip-clopping, or even walking very gently, on the deck above. I know how Nature works, though, and I’m cool with this. It’s all part of this merry, madcap trip from spring to summer. Everyone’s protective of their children when they’re babies, right. They should be, anyhow.
As much as they are keeping an eye on us, we in the house have been keeping a close eye on their family progress, as well. Their tenancy, after all, has put a temporary hold on the plan to rebuild my aging deck, and so we are more than just mildly curious about how things are going in the natural world. The exciting news came Friday morning, when I was visiting the garden down below (wisely wearing the pithe helmet) and spied two hungry mouths poking up from the nest under the far corner of the deck. Happy Father’s Day, papa robin!
And Happy Father’s Day to you, too, Dear Dad!! Can you smell the heliotrope blooming from there in Connecticut? : )
In another part of the yard, L and I spied more signs of new life, in the form of this newly-fledged mourning dove, who we disturbed and went flying up into the tree, one of its parents watching us all quite carefully from the roof of the barn.
In between rains, I recently potted up the third of those terra-cotta colored window boxes. This third box features white margarite daisies, sonata (a shorter variety) cosmos, and a pair of asparagus ferns. I wanted to be sure I had daisy flowers all summer long, and this window box should give me that. Since the other two window boxes have lobelia as their trailing plant, I wanted something different and I think the asparagus ferns will trail nicely in green, to contrast the other two. Plus, I should be able to keep those two alive throughout the winter for future years.
To the left of this picture, you’ll note the canna lily pot has recently come outdoors. To shade the soil in the pot a bit, to slow down evaporation of moisture, I’ve recently added some of the dwarf zinnia seedlings I started this winter, as well as a nice planting of nasturtiums to trail over the sides. It looks like we’ll have the first flowers from those shortly, so more on that later.
In the foreground, on the right, you’ll note a round pot I’ve also recently planted. This will hopefully fill in over the next week or so and give me some nice festivity for our July Fourth picnic (when it will hopefully not rain, as we clearly have a credit coming). In addition to the red firecracker salvias, I also planted a white bacopa and a blue volvulus, along with a silver trailing vine. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, in the center of this shot (but howzabout a close-up?) please take note of how very well my sweet pea vines (planted the same time as the feeble morning glories) are doing! I’m almost running out of sticks for them to climb, so I’ll have to address that shortly, and I expect once we get a little more sunshine, we’ll be seeing some blooming. It’s been a bunch of years since I grew sweet peas, so I’m really looking forward to that!
The red canister, BTW, is something you’ve no doubt spotted before in some of my garden pictures. It’s one of those plastic Folgers coffee cans, yes. But with a little sand inside and a tea candle, they are transformed into terrific summertime luminaries. Although I don’t drink the decaf, the green cans that come in would be pretty terrific, I’m sure, as well.
With the solstice approach, I’ve renewed my attention on household things and last night decided to address a long-deferred project. No doubt, many of you (I’m looking at you, Naomi) will be sorry to be reminded that I kept the very bright Bed of Roses pink as the color in my tiny pantry. I haven’t mentioned it in a while and if you don’t see it every day, it no doubt fades from memory, in some cases happily so.
Two of the walls I kept are largely covered in shelves, so its not so bad on a daily basis. The third wall is very rarely seen by anyone in the apartment; most of the time, even I have my back to it. Which probably explains why its taken me so long to get around to painting it. You see, there was a big spackle patch on that wall…and no more of the B.O.R. pink to touch up with, so I had to come up with another plan…and one’s been germinating in my head pretty much since I first met the wall ten months ago.
So last night, after work, I sat down with a paper grocery bag and started tearing strips and then taping them together, making a pattern for a sort of gnarled-looking tree branch. I was planning one of those easy-breezy sponge treatments for the wall, but wanted to leave this shape behind.
Now, of course, t’is impossible to introduce a paper grocery bag to the evening without attracting local feline attraction and if you are actually tearing that bag, well, it’s a cat party. My Purry Pal was quick to join in the fun, and when I wouldn’t let him help by shredding my nascent pattern, he contented himself with “hiding” in the half-bag that remained.
The project went pretty quickly and was done all last evening. The nice thing about painting with sponges and plastic bags is that the friction helps the paint to set up pretty quickly. I added some stenciling letters so that I got a relief in the paint when I removed them, and so I embedded on the wall another of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, “Earth laughs in flowers.”, which seems completely appropriate, as the still-longer-term plan for this under-utilized walls is an additional gallery of garden photos.
For the moment, the project is done, though when I am touching up trim in that Mexicana brick-ish color, I plan to hand paint a few simple blossoms along the branch outline. But for now, voila:
Happy Solstice, everyone!