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 ‘lilies’ 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.


A Foxling at Twilight Time

Look at these monster lilies.  They are of the oriental variety, specifically the Casa Blanca.   There are here as long as I – four years in September – and are having their best year ever.

They were early out of the ground this spring (but what wasn’t?) and  have grown strong and fast…and taller than ever (and while I hesitate to say it, with not a sign of the dreaded lily leaf beetle)…as the season progressed.   It looks like they’ll put on a nice show in a week or two.

The light on them was much better when they first caught my eye this evening.

I was on my way inside from a bit of after-work watering, pruning and deadheading (that turned into hotdogs with the Downstairses)when I spotted the way they were glowing in the dusky light and dashed upstairs for my camera.

But while I was up there, I spied out the porch door that the foxling who we see about lately had walked into the yard and up onto our back deck.

I went stealthily outside with my camera, sneaking around the back of the house to see if I could capture a shot quietly as it fled, without unduly scaring the poor creature.   I doubted the attempt would amount to much, but Hope springs eternal.  But still…

There he was, on the far side of the porch now, and from a safe and respectful distance away, I got the camera up and zoomed in for a shot.   The first, with flash, sucked all the light out of the scene.  Oops.  With the flash off, I caught this second shot, but I had also caught his attention and he turned around in my direction.

From the second story perspective, this fox seemed both larger and less friendly.   Now I could see it was quite small, maybe just a kit off exploring on his own.    Or maybe not so much on his own as it appeared, so my guard was definitely up.

But this young kit was also appearing to do that thing many dogs do upon first meeting me, which is this whole “OMG It’s YOU!!!!” Exuberant Best Friends Parted Forever Now Reunited in A Great Wagging Licking (Sometimes Peeing) Pile of Friendliness extravaganza, and while I don’t hate this sort of attention at all, generally speaking, in this case, I actually felt the need  to wave off this wild little creature before he got too close.

“Whoa, dude.  You can’t do that with me.  I mean, I’m cool,” I said.   “But not every human is.  You have to be careful.  But still,  hi.”

And so he sat there beside me for a moment.

He was not more than six feet away, while I fumbled with a camera zoomed in for the long distance shot, now hopelessly out of focus for something closer.

I might’ve done better if I’d crouched down to get on his level, but I didn’t want him to see that as an invitation to come cuddle, either.

After a moment or two, he got bored with me and turned to trot off across the yard and then around it’s perimeter, vanishing with the fox version of a grande jete into the undergrowth at the back corner of the yard.

I have a feeling we’ll meet again.

Spirit of the Summertime

Previously on the Midnight Garden:  a new deck was built and a few modest plantings were put together to create a sort of garden in the air as June began to bust out all over.

Well, things started modestly, anyway, but as is often the case, the planting and the digging and the potting got a little out of hand, what with seedling exchanges and plant gifts and bargains discovered and seeds started.

A few marigolds and pansies and herbs turned into also a plum tomato and a couple of yellow squash and some bell peppers and a pot of cucumber vines and an eggplant and some Swiss chard and petunias and a tomatilla plant and a pair of jalapeno pepper plants and sweet potato vine and and zinnias (deep breath) and some nasturtiums  and mint and daturas and agastache and ginger and clover and morning glories and cardinal climber and a couple of grasses (for the Catsby’s nibbling pleasure) and I must admit, there’s a few pots of I’m-Not-Exactly-Sure-What growing, too.

And all that’s in addition to the hibiscus and the asparagus ferns and the pointsettia and the clementine orange treelet and the Arbor Day tree seedlings that arrived last October.

And then once all of those things were situated they started growing and space became even more of a premium as the plants began growing together.   I’m glad I thought to designate seat areas early on, though the peppers seem to thrive in the light they find on the bench each day.

Of course all those pots full of plants make great cover for a fierce (ish) jungle cat stalking his prey.   Bonus points if you can spot him skulking about.  The thing is, on the underside of the new deck was a nestful of baby robins, and my roommate loves to lay on the deck and give them the Mystifying Cat Eye through the space in the decking.

(In fact, we are currently hosting a second nest of baby robins under there, about to fledge this weekend, I estimate.   The  hot spring/summer has meant lots of bugs, which is translating into large juvenal bird populations this summer.)

If they even notice the Catdude, they just carry on chirping, hoping perhaps this strange looking bird up above has a mouth full of worms or bugs – an idea of much distaste to the Gray Catsby – and he so moves off to other pursuits, exploring his world.

The arrival of the Solstice saw us (well, me) getting a bird station established on one corner of the deck and that has brought us both a virtually endless supply of entertainment, in light of that bumper crop of birdies I mentioned before.

There’s two different bird baths I try to keep clean and fresh for all our visitors and they are pretty popular.   The very cool seed cylinder was a gift from our friends the Thompsons of Wild Birds Unlimited in South Yarmouth.  The first one was free, but the price is right for this blend of seeds for cardinals and many of the smaller birds, so we are happy to give them some business (and hope you will, too!)

I’m told the cylinder is designed for a particular feeder, but it comes with mesh bag, and that’s working quite well on its own.   I’ve tied a piece of twine around a thick stick and then threaded the twine up through the bag and the hollow center of the cylinder, tying off the top of the bag before attaching it to the shepherd’s crook.   We also offer berry and nut suet cakes most of the time.

Our regular visitors are a fairly large population of young chickadees, titmice (they don’t seem to be so tufted when they are youngins) woodpeckers and carolina wrens.   There’s a bluejay who visits now and then and a fairly regular young cardinal.  The robins don’t visit the feeders, but the Mama robin  (I’m unclear if it’s the same one who had the earlier nest, or if this is a second mama) was sort of agressive about chasing off some woodpeckers about the time the latest babies hatched.

And who can blame her?  There was a flock of crows lurking about then, too.

Anyway, just to keep the bird stress to a minimum, the Catsby only gets limited and well-supervised visits to the deck during the Nesting.   I trust him pretty well, but the Night Time Rooftop Incident curbed a little of my enthusiasm, too.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t think he has Mad Kitteh Skillz, but he also has a history of rolling off the couch onto his head, so color me skeptical.

Still, I’m sure the breeze up there was a delightful respite from the heat.  And it took only the slightest shake of the kitty treat package to get him back inside, anyhow.

Of course, that was way back at mid-summer, when we still viewed the heat and humidity as a seasonal affectation.  Now it seems to be a trend for the summer (although there have been some lovely cooler evenings as well – last week was delightful!) and I’ll confess the drought has taken its toll on the gardening.

We try to find the right balance of watering and not watering with the little bit of rain we’ve seen, so as not to be wasteful.  I try to be as efficient as I can in watering the deck pottings and have installed a few reservoirs in the veggie pots to make sure they are properly watered.   But conservation has meant less watering of the gardens  in the ground, which have been mostly fending for themselves.  Everything has still bloomed, but in some cases not for very long and some things have quickly grown frazzled.

This daisy, however, is meant to look this way.   I’ve misplaced my memory of this particular daisy variety’s name, but that’s partly because we decided that she is the Janis Joplin of daisies, anyway.   This plant is a new addition this season and only gave us a couple of blooms, but they do grow pretty rapidly hereabouts, so I expect we’ll see some lovely performances from this flower in years to come.

Every summer I’ve ever lived has gone pretty quickly.   Even my least favorite one went pretty rapidly.   Every year they seem to flee a bit faster and this year’s been no exception, though I’m happy to say it’s also been a delightful season of fun outside the garden, too.

There’ve been a few memorable visits to Provincetown this year, always a treat for me.   First there was the Provincetown International Film Festival back in mid June.   I was only able to see one of this year’s films, Howl, but what a great choice. I thought it a wonderful docu-drama about Allen Ginsberg’s famous/infamous poem which was as remarkable and entertaining as the poem itself.   When it sees a wider release in September, I truly hope you’ll have an opportunity to see it.   I hope I’ll get to see it again myself.

Another weekend found me rendezvousing with Maura for the Portuguese Festival and Parade on Commercial Street.   We also explored shops and galleries and gardens and culinary treats and such, as the season geared up toward its usual summertime fever pitch.

The Tenth Annual Bear Week saw the opening of a variety of gallery shows, including the steamy work of Michael Breyette, further enhanced by steamy weather.   That same night I tried to attend a benefit for WOMR Outermost Radio, but the Provincetown Fire Department got there first, so that was not meant to be.

And there’s more to say about PTown of late, as I spent a lot of time there last week, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for all that.   But I will tell you that Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument is 100 years old this month and was rededicated in a big ceremony with fireworks this evening, which I did not attend.  I bet it was fun, but oy, the crowds.

Whenever I see pretty hydrangeas, I try to snap some good shots of them, since I have a few friends and regular blog readers who are especially fans of them.   Because of the hot and dry weather, their beauty is a little more fleeting this year and I happened to catch these pink ones at their perfect moment.   As I took the picture, I was thinking of my blog pal Java, as she is one of those fans.

We’ve known one another thru the Interwebs (and mutual friends both real and fictional) for over two years now, but hadn’t ever had the pleasure of more than emails and blog comments back and forth.  Until late July, when suddenly I got word that Java was setting out on a roadtrip to explore the Northeast and Cape Cod was on the radar or the mapquest or something.   (I can’t really say “plan” because the lack of such a thing was a bone of some contention with J’s traveling partner Cory.   You can visit Java’s blog for all the roadtrip details, of course!)

And so it was on a hot July Saturday that we rendezvoused at the Nest for this first meeting of old friends and what a fun day we had.   There were hugs and cool beverages and cat admirings and travel discussions and brunch and some touring and then more talking.   I’m sure some of your ears were tingling a little;  we talked a lot.  About many of you.  But fear not, we were kind.

We were concerned about anything but photography, though and we almost missed a chance to get a picture together.  We certainly weren’t concerned with the quality of the light or anything like that, which might explain why the color was so washed out that a black and white version was best (Bummer, too, as I was wearing my fabulous new tie dye.).   But I’m happy for this souvenir of a lovely afternoon with a lovely friend.

Smooches, Java!

“Oh, bring again my heart’s content,

Thou Spirit of the Summer-time!”

William Allingham