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."

Archive for the ‘hydrangeas’ Category

Lily Weekend

The Casa Blanca lilies are having a banner year.

They’ve been in residence here as long as I and this year are showing all the signs of well-established bulbs.   Each of the two plants have strong healthy stems – about four foot tall – and nice big flower buds.    Most exciting, perhaps, is that this year, the destructive and annoying red lily leaf beetle is nowhere to be seen.   They have deviled these plants mightily for their whole tenancy, so it’s remarkable that they are absent this year.

I’m not sure to what to credit the little bastards’ exodus – I’d recommend it to the rest of you in a heartbeat if I understood the Why.  But rather than worry the issue too much, I’ll just accept their absence gleefully and move on.

The blooming of the Casa Blancas is always a little bittersweet.   They’re wonderful blooms open just when the flowering season seems to flag a little at summer’s halfway point, and they arrival certainly herald July’s end (although in previous years, I have known the species to bloom a week or so later).   Their fragrance is not especially strong yet, but I expect good things now that we’ve had some more rain to encourage them just last night.

Like many places this year, we are experiencing some drought-y conditions, as you can see by the straw-brown lawn in the background.   We’ve been conservative in watering the gardens, too (I plan for the upcoming renovation of garden beds will include the installation of soaker hoses for increased efficiency in watering.), so bloom times have been shorter than usual for some things.   These lilies, however, have taken all that in stride, a clear sign they are happy with their place.

I know some consider them weeds, and I’ll concede they are a little too “eager”/aggressive sometimes, but the Queen Anne’s Lace I’ve introduced into a few of our beds is taking the drought in stride, as well.   That’s one of the benefits of using a plant you know already thrives in the area – they are generally good about adapting to changing circumstances.  And of course, nothing stops these orange daylilies!

These rose bushes in the front yard are old and well-established, but the dry conditions have their impact there, as well.  I’m sure these roses will be very happy with the new adjacent garden and its efficient water delivery.

Meanwhile, in the backyard, the QAL is joined by some unstoppable cosmos and tickseed coreopsis to make a show with whatever water we and/or Nature may provide.

Here’s some hydragea porn for my lovely pal, Java, who is a big fan of them and might welcome a pretty picture or two to distract her from her recent foray into the world of stunt-driving.   We always make sure these guys have plenty of water, since they look so sad when they haven’t had any.

The Rose of Sharon is quite hearty, though, and seems to do just fine, regardless.

I’m happy to say we had some serious rain last evening, a nice soaking storm that lasted a couple of hours.

It was a good start on making up for all we have missed so far this otherwise-delightful summer, but we could use some more, to help spread that slight flush of green that’s suddenly reappeared in the lawn.   Between midnight and six is the preferred time, of course, though I don’t think we can be especially fussy about that anymore.

It sure is nice to look outside and see how happy our green friends are today.

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Midsummer Garden Report

So, Summer Solstice is nearly upon us.  Today, at 7:09 p.m., Summer officially begins and we’ll have our longest day.

Sort of a shame it’s Wednesday and thus a workday.   I always feel, somehow, like it ought to be a lazy day spent wandering – dancing, cavorting – barefoot through some wildflower meadow.   Which sounds wonderfully pagan and maybe a little romantic, until you start thinking about ticks and mosquitos and things.

It seems a shame that we start Summer with its longest day.   Maybe that’s why we feel the need to cram so many beach days and picnics and barbecues and such into our summer days.   After tomorrow, every night the sun will set a little sooner.  The clock’s ticking:  Gather ye rosebuds, make hay while the sun shines.   Beat the heat with cool summer savings!

Yikes, don’t cave to all that pressure – that’s what’s making all those people out on the highway so frantic.  Just breathe.

Stop and smell the flowers.

But yes, of course, as the Wheel of the Seasons turns, our local roads are starting to look more like this, as the annual rising tide of seasonal residents and summer visitors and workers commences.   It’s time to drive a little more defensively, with a little more patience and forethought, and try to remember that, once, you too were unsure just how to navigate a rotary.

But the approaching season has brought invasions of other kinds, too.  In our own back yard, in fact.    Last weekend, a sunny afternoon after a week of rain led us out for a prowl around the yard to see what was going on, where a second incredulous look confirmed that a previously benign-seeming bamboo had suddenly leapt into spring-loaded action against us, sending runners eight feet in six different directions, thick pointy tassle-top spears rising twice the height of the parent plant all along the root’s path.

The plant came to our yard about eight years ago, so it pre-dates me.   It had been described – I am told – when the division was introduced into the landscape, as being “one of those bamboos that doesn’t spread”.   Meaning the mythical kind that don’t really exist.  I think one of the reasons it did nothing for so long is that it was planted in a tight little hole dug quickly.  But I may bear some responsibility for bringing it roaring to life.

Since I moved in almost four years ago, I’ve worked in every garden around the property, weeding out undesirables, loosening and amending the soil, pruning out dead canes.   All that tender loving, coupled with a frost-free winter, may have been all the encouragement this plant needed to jump into action.    Fortunately, we caught it early, and I was able to dig it out completely, without destroying most of the good stuff in the garden around it.   Those irises were ready for division and pruning, anyway.    And the new real estate gave me a place to transplant some of the surplus sulfur cosmos thriving in pots on the deck.

I sort of hated having to lead the attack on a plant.   You know I’m fond of them all, and I had to admire the way this thing went to work so effortlessly.  But it was poised to take over everything pretty darn quickly, and so (while I think the Day of the Triffids was a terrific book, and Little Shop of Horrors numbers among my favorite musicals…) this Vegetable had to die.

I managed somehow to get it almost in a single piece and we wrapped it up tight in plastic and duct tape and took it off to the dump like you might with anything you sincerely hoped was really dead.   Eventually, the replanted bed will fill in and look pretty good, but meanwhile, the nearby catawba tree has come into bloom to distract us from the raw looking bed.

And the hydrangeas at the neighbors house are doing this:

Yes, yes, midsummer’s upon us, with all its balmy breezes and floral magic.  Tomorrow’s forecast promises our first taste of something like a heatwave.

Orioles fly in spiraling pairs overhead, their songs coloring the evening.  Baby bunnies nibble everywhere at twilight, as fireflies flicker in the underbrush, slowly making their way out in the open air as darkness slowly sinks around us.  The air is scented of roses and sea salt.  The first Shasta daisies and zinnias burst open when we glance away, foreshadowing the skyrockets of Independence Day, just around the corner.

And for just this one night, the sun sets far later than we even realize.   Don’t miss it.

Happy Summer, everyone.   Enjoy!

Walking Into the New Year

I’m not much of a resolver, when it comes to New Years.   Sure, I can see where the illusory Fresh Start of a new calendar can be a motivator for some, but I can’t say it’s often worked for me, nor actually, for lots of other people I know.   It’s not to say I don’t see room for improvement – twas ever thus, but the whole NY Resolutions Thing often feels like magnified guilt over too many Christmas cookies.

This morning on Facebook, my friend Anna posted this:

“Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself.”

It doesn’t matter that they weren’t her original thoughts but something she read somewhere.  She admits posting because she shared the sentiment, which is what I’m doing here, because they are wise words, really.

Be yourself.   Don’t know who that is?  Try something new that interests you and see what happens.   Don’t change because you think it will make someone else happy.  Be true to yourself and see where it leads you this year.  And you know what, I know a whole bunch of you, and generally, my advice is don’t change, I like you just the way you are.

(But for the record, only 17 days away from 2.5 years without cigarettes!)

Say, last night I forgot to show you a picture of this new amaryllis we’ve welcomed to the Nest.  The bulb was a birthday gift and you can see its grown rather quickly in the two or three weeks its been with us.   The amaryllis I’ve enjoyed the last two winters has also been brought out of its autumn hibernation recently, but shows no signs of growth just yet.  I recall it was slow to green up last winter, too and then turned out just fine.

This new year brought us a lovely day, with temperatures almost in the fifties and – perhaps more importantly – no wind and so my Purry Pal and I decided to seize the day and start off the new year in style with a nice afternoon stroll around the yard.

Since our recent freeze a couple weeks back was the first real hard freeze we had, there’d been allyssum blooming here and there and pretty much everywhere right up until then, thanks to my fashion of flinging the stuff about…and while my Cat Buddy didn’t care, I was kind of excited to find a small clump of it in a sheltered corner of the garden merrily blooming to meet the sunny day.

He was mostly interested in finding some grass to nibble on and to see what things smelled like.     We made it around the house and through the hedge to the Next Doors when I realized he was slipping out of his harness, which brought an end to our explorations.  Of course he squirmed and fussed, but our adventure lasted about long enough for him and he’s been snoozing the day away since.

Once my pal was watered and treated and happily settled inside, I headed out for a walk of my own, to see what sort of sunset business this first day of the year might bring.   It was one of those nights where it looked as though it would fuzz out short of the horizon, thanks to distant cloud cover (rain tomorrow), but it was still a lovely afternoon and a great opportunity to have a peaceful and thoughtful ramble to the bay and back.

You’re most welcome to come along with me.

I can’t say I have any particularly detailed hopes and dreams to share with you about this new year before us.  Que sera, sera:  more of what I’ve been enjoying will be just fine, thanks.

As long as there are walks through afternoons like this one.