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 ‘rudbeckia’ Category

Late Season

Remember when we were kvetching about all the heat and humidity?

Last night it got pretty chilly here, dipping just below forty degrees, but with winds gusting to about 40 mph, it felt like winter was arriving, even perhaps, that Sudden Deep Freeze scene from The Day After Tomorrow.   The brilliant moonlight silvered everything seen out the window, too, just to enhance the illusion.

Since the weekend ahead is the one I had set aside for such autumnal things like putting the garden to bed and (more importantly) getting the storm windows in place, last night was dang cold, with the Gray Catsby and I snuggled together under several blankets and comforters while the wind howled outside.  Thankfully, he throws a bit of  heat.

This morning I awoke to find snow…but thankfully only in photos of friends of mine who live in more northern climates.   The temperature is 49 F at 11:30 a.m., though the wind still gusts here, keeping the trees dancing and sending fading leaves swirling.   The sunshine is bright and warm, though and there isn’t much reason to hibernate just yet.

The deck garden and the yard aren’t quite ready to be put to bed, so I’ll focus on the storm windows today.

I offer these warm-looking photos as antidote to the Season Shock my friends in chillier places may be experiencing lately.

I have already brought a few things indoors, like the hibiscus that starts off this post, a pot of marine heliotrope, another of mint and a lovely hanging basket I’m not quite ready to say so long to yet.   I do hope to repot those now-two-year-old dracaenas, since they o’er-wintered so well inside last year…and there’s the asparagus ferns…it’ll be a real jungle in here once that great migration is complete.

But first the storm windows, while the deck keeps up its pretty show.

By the way, I don’t want you to think I’m all done with posts about Summer, there’s at least a Part 2 and 3 coming, possibly more.  But of course, when you just take loads of pics as the summer races along, it’s tricky (but fun) and time-consuming:  remembering just where they are saved, under what name, and the way I’d like to arrange them to tell the story.

But as they say, No Day But Today, and just to be clear, each one of these pics was taken this morning.

The pink bloom in the shot below is one of my very successful crop of agastache plants I grew this year (In the background – big surprise – is purple allyssum).    They were happy plants right out of the gate and grew wonderfully as the season progressed.   Some were gifted to others gardens, while a half a dozen stayed with me.

In the next couple of weeks, they’ll find homes in the gardens downstairs and – if my experience is true – will live almost ten years once I  find them the right spot.  But  with such a drought going on this summer, it seemed kinder to keep the plants in pots just outside the door where I could make sure they got watered.

The rain we’ve had recently is doing its work down in the garden, and the Shasta daisies by the driveway – normally long finished blooming by the end of July – have managed to present just a few more flowers this week, to join in the chorus of rudbeckia and imperial mums who’ve taken center stage for the season’s finale.

Stay warm, everyone – it’s flannel shirt and fleece season, to be sure – and have a great weekend!!


Catching Up With August


So now it’s the end of August.   Hydrangeas are fading, gardens everywhere are looking at little tattered and thirsty in the heat, our eyes are suddenly on the Tropics as we watch the first hurricanes of the year forming – and one of them, Bill – seems to be taking aim at our part of the world.  We’ll see what happens there; the Cape is long overdue, though hopefully we will continue to be spared.   But my point is, the sun is setting earlier, the greenhead flies are holding forth and the summer is clearly ebbing away.

And how, ” I hear you asking, “are you doing?  What about the Surgery?” you want to know.   Yes, that.   I’m doing fine, though I guess it’s no surprise that the whole experience put me a little off my game for a bit.   As the two week mark arrives, I am getting it back together, but feh.   If I had only two words to sum up the whole business, I’ d have to go with “F**king OUCH”, although I suppose I could also live with “Okay, fine”…or maybe…”Lorna Doones”.


Fortunately, bein’ a blogger, there’s no reason to go with just two words.    Really, overall, t’was not the worst experience I’ve ever had.  Though, too, I did think that it was annoying, invasive, painful, a bit of a mind-f*ck and not at all something I’d have chosen from a list of potential August activities.  But people who’ve had more of the stuff than me (and so know better) tell me that it was a piece of cake, that I’m probably far ahead of the game and I’m doing great.   So what do I know?

The whole hospital experience was a short one – we were on our way back home an hour and twenty minutes after the surgery – so at least there was no overnight time.   Mom and Dad were along to keep me company, which was just great (and they were kind enough not to eat and drink in front of me, since I was fasting).  A few well-chosen graphic novels helped tend to my good mental health (the indestructible alien Superman to fill me with hope as I waited before the surgery…and the unstoppable human Batman to power through the pain of the good drugs wearing off later that night) and distract me from tying myself in knots.

The nurse who saw me through my “induction” to the surgical waiting area was a bit of a stormtrooper, and sadly was also the person responsible for shaving me.   I think I could’ve done a more efficient job myself and it was clear neither of us wanted her to be doing it.   I resisted the temptation to offer much constructive criticism, though, since I was uncertain what access she might have to me with the shaving implements while I was out.   Naturally, she still managed to leave more than enough fur to anchor adhesive gauze onto.   Grrrr.

But everyone else there was pretty lovely and the gang in the operating room were a merry bunch.   They actually walked me into the operating room, something I wasn’t at all sure I actually wanted to see.  As we walked down the hallway I said, “Well, this addresses that irrational fear I had about being accidentally dropped while I was out.”, which the nurse and anethesiologist both thought was pretty funny.


My photo blogger instincts were trying to kick in, even without coffee, and I remember wishing that I’d brought my camera along, so I could take a picture of the operating room lights.   The configuration of the two different units (like the one pictured here) reminded me of a dried flower arrangement, but I couldn’t think of the name of the brown seedpods these made me think of.   And I remember thinking that I should start to tell a joke, that they’re not having heard the punchline would be my insurance that I’d come out on the other side, and there was a little pulse in the IV in the back of my hand…

…and then there was an icy glass of Coca Cola and a package of Lorna Doones (the name of which my mind sung in exactly the way that Lerner and Loewe would have preferred) and I was in the recovery room and almost before I knew it we were making the trip home.   I know I was doped up pretty well, because I felt great and was hungry as anything.   But it certainly was great to get back to the Nest and see my Gray Pal and you’ll recall I blogged briefly right off.


The first couple of days aren’t worth looking at too closely, really.   There was some pretty serious pain (and fortunately, vicodin) and a bit of swelling and I didn’t really want to do much more than lay around and read and snuggle with Nurse Scratch-It, who never left my side.

In between that, there were also some good times with Mom and Dad, whose visit extended through the weekend and they made sure I was fed and watered properly and they are just terrific company.  They also saw me through the twin indignities of post-surgical constipation and seemingly-endless hiccups (Thanks to all the Facebook buds who wrote with their favorite hiccups remedies, even if a few seemed a little extreme.  A couple of them even worked, for a little while, anyway.), which we managed to turn into a few laughs.   Yep, just no end to the toe-tappin’ fun around here that weekend.



Actually, on Sunday, which was Day 3 after the surgery, we did have a bit of fun, when I went out on an adventure with Mom and Dad.   Just before this visit to the Cape, Mom had learned of the existence of the Cape Cod Lavendar Farm, in nearby Harwich.   I note with some irony that the Midnight Gardener was somehow seemingly the LAST person on Cape Cod to know of this place’s existence.    But I’m happy to say I know about it now…and I look forward to going back again real soon!

And also, I hope to get there next year around mid-summer, when these fields (there’s 12 acres) are purple with blooming lavendar.   I imagine the whole place redolent with the scent which, when we visited, was mostly found in the small shop where all the lavendar and related lavendar products are sold.   Oh, what a joyous cloud of fragrance walking in there!  Mmmmmm.





This fantastic little cottage is the shop where all the fresh and dried lavendar, potted plants and related lavendar products (hand creams, body wash, lotions, candles, dreaming pillows, sashays…) were available.  It was a little overwhelming, really, but soothingly so.   I sort of took things in a little superficially, I’ll admit, and will enjoy my next visit to the place.   There’s a fairy-themed garden in the woods which I look forward to exploring next time, but really didn’t feel up to on that particular day.

Here’s Dad outside the lavendar shop as we enjoyed some sunshine while Mom collected some purchases.  Hi Dad!

[In a meager first attempt to bring the dimension of Scent to the Midnight Garden blog, one of you lucky readers has been chosen completely at random to participate in an experiment.   To prevent petty jealousy, the lucky recipient of the lavendar sashay will remain anonymous…but should hold that fragrance delivery device near their nose and inhale deeply right about now.]




After leaving the farm, we rendezvoused with our friends Tom and Sue, who’ve recently relocated to the Cape from the Adirondacks at their place (the daylilies featured above are from Sue’s front walk garden, actually), where we visited a bit before heading off to Sesuit Harbor in Dennis, where we had lunch at this terrific waterfront eatery inside the marina there.


It’s a pretty casual affair, you order your food inside, get your beverages and then pick a picnic table along the shore and eventually, they bring your food out to you.   We all ordered lobster rolls, since its apparently the thing that people go there for.   Understandably so, they were darned good.

But <sarcasm>apparently they kill and cook the lobsters to order</sarcasm>, since it took a pretty long time for that food to find us.    Still, it’s August on the Cape, so such waits are to be expected… and we were luckier than some in that we had truly good company to pass the time with and a lovely day going on around us.

I wasn’t keen on all that much sitting, so I got up and walked around a few times, snapping a few photos of things that amused me.  I was fond of these five sparrows sitting on the  rope fence, especially.


Our lunches were certainly worth waiting for (so very good) and as I said, we had a terrific time.  We even found someone to get a photo of us all to prove it to you!




Mom and Dad headed for home on Monday.   Their departure coincided with the arrival of some Serious Warm for our area, and so I was happy to just lay around quietly with The Catsby, finding breezes in front of the fans and applying ice packs and lying almost close enough to touch…but not touching, it being so warm and all.

Badum was quite happy to have my company full-time and eagerly shared with me some of the details about just what it is he does at home all day long.   As you might imagine, it’s a pretty attractive lifestyle.

In the morning, after breakfast, there’s a nap in the sun in the dining room, then another nap in the sun a little later in the front bedroom…and then after lunch, there’s a nice long nap on the bed, followed almost right away by another nap…after which there’s a bit of a stretch and a walk-around, checking out various windows to make sure the world’s carrying on the way it should…and then back for another little bit of a nap before dinner.


This, was Nurse Kitty at his finest.

And now, as they say, Tempus Fugit, baby.   Time flies.   I’ve been back to work for a week.   After all the Kitty-ing, that was a bit of an adjustment.   I’d  been trying to take it easy a bit, not wanting to do too much, but by the same token wanting to get things back to something like normal.   I miss my walks to the bay and bike rides and stuff and will be happy to reintroduce those into my regular routines as I continue to heal and feel more comfortable with that stuff again.


The hot weather’s been coming and going.   We had just enough rain to keep us from enjoying much of this year’s Perseid Meteor Showers (although I did see one or two from the deck last weekend) and now with the hot weather’s return, we track the progress of Hurricane Bill.

Next year, I swear, I will convert all my deck pots with self-watering conversion kits.   It seems no matter how often I water those guys, the hot sun just saps them and things are looking a little weary out there on the deck in more than a few of those pots, owing to the extremes we’ve seemed to enjoy.

Thank goodness for macro-focus!


One success story, though, is the planter where the  morning glories are growing.   They have been joined in the last twenty-four hours, by the first cardinal climber flowers, which you can see here (Thanks, again, Theresa, for the seeds!!).   There’s a host more buds poised to bloom tomorrow and other things are happening in the planter, as well.

Down at the feet of the vines, I seeded in some bachelors buttons, which are little more than seedlings just now, but should bring me plenty of flowers for September and early October.   To my surprise, some of the yellow violas from the other planters have seeded their way in there and have already come into bloom, as well!

Not far away, a planter full of dwarf cosmos have begun to sing a song of August.


Summer, Act One Finale


What a summer it’s been…and really, that was just July.   In contrast to the seemingly-infinite rains of June, July’s been sunny and bright (and rainy, too) and also darned hot a few times (although only relatively speaking – nothing compared to what friends in the Pacific Northwest have had recentlyI would just melt if it were 106 here…).   Never try to make small talk with a gardener about the weather…it’ll always be more than you bargained for.

Meteorological conditions to the side, July was a sweet month in lots of ways.  At the heart of that was reunions with old friends, but adjunct to those reunions have been a whole host of fun Cape Cod in Summer activities as backdrop for our catching-ups, and those can be awfully fun, too!   The shopping, the walking, the swimming (yep, I’ve even been bobbing about in the icy Atlantic), the climbing (Pilgrim Monument, yes from the inside…), sunset beachwalks, oysters…the list goes on.


Indeed, it’s been a lovely season in so many ways.  This latest reunion came when my old pal (I can say that without worry…we have known one another a long time…and as it turns out, I’m still older than she…) Heidi washed up for a quick overnight visit to Cape Cod with her daughter, Margo.   Ah, what a treat.  Heidi and I hadn’t seen one another (except in the occasional photo) in about 24 years.   We’ve been in touch on and off, and more on than off in the last year or so, as our lives led us along somewhat similar paths.

What a joy it was, though, to embrace…and then quickly pick up our friendship as though no time at all had passed (ha, do the math – I was TWENTY when I last saw her!) and without a shred of awkwardness or anything.   What a treat!      Such a funny thing memory is, the way you can seem to not remember anything, and then the description of a recalled moment brings so many other things rushing  back.  And how life changes us along the way.

Margo was very patient with us as we reviewed the past, every now and then drifting through the room to mutter the word beach, in hopes of teasing us from our reveries.   Eventually, we did get them checked into their motel and found ourselves at Marconi Beach, where the cold Atlantic waited on a hot summer afternoon.  Brrr, but ahhhh, too.   After dinner, we wandered back to Eastham where we took in the sunset at First Encounter Beach and mucked about on the tidal flats, where we got some very nice folks to capture this wonderful picture for us.


Purples Hydrangea





As July becomes August, the gardens are in pretty good shape.   I’m a little disappointed that none of the lilies I planted this spring came to much of anything and the same, sadly, seems to be true of the dahlias.  I wonder if the heavy rains of June are to blame, or perhaps some  eager underground varmints.   We do seem to have extensive mole tunnels throughout the  yard, although my experience is that they generally tunnel around bulbs and such.   Perhaps we have a hungrier variety hereabouts.

There’s no shame in having to touch up a garden halfway through the summer, though.  Things happen.  Plants die.   And fortunately, all the decent nurseries saved the annuals we didn’t buy earlier in the year and repotted them and kept them growing and are happy to sell them to us in a larger form now.

So last weekend, to fill in a few holes in the garden along the southern side of the house, I picked up some assorted zinnias and also some blue ageratum and did a little weeding and replanting of this bed.


There’s already plenty going on, as you can see, but much of that is perennial in nature (daisies, daylilies, black-eyed susans, hydrangeas) and some of that will be done soon.  There’s also some survivors of some early June seeding I did, and we may yet see some more zinnias and perhaps a few bachelor’s buttons here, as well.

The new additions should assure us some color on into September…and just for extra measure, I did a final seeding of allyssum along the front of the bed, in two colors.  Oh, as a bonus, in the gardens on this side of the house (where Halloween pumpkins were hosted on the stoop last fall), I discovered we have three different volunteer pumpkin vines, doing quite happily for all our neglectful ignorance.


In the containers of the deck garden, things are going along pretty nicely.   One of the sweet pea vines seems to be dying from the bottom up, but the others are still nicely producing a few flowers every couple of days, enough to continue to snip them to bring inside for a tiny arrangement (seen here with a bit of purple marine heliotrope).


Some of the zinnias and the heliotrope were looking a little ragged and the lobelia has paused in its blooming.  I’m a little out of practice with containers, where you can quickly go from being overwatered by too much rain to dry as dust in the hot sun.   Mostly I’ve been doing well about knowing when to water and when not, but I’ve had a few misteps along the way.  Meanwhile, most plants are doing nicely now and as I’ve pruned off much of the telltale dead foliage from those that faded a little, and they are starting to perk up once more.


No climbing vine photos this time around, which shouldn’t lead you to believe there isn’t impressive growth going on.  Nothing like some hot summer sunshine to encourage morning glories and cardinal climbers to spiral around trellaces and posts, racing skyward.  The latter haven’t begun blooming just yet, but I have a feeling it won’t be too much longer.  We’ll see.

In assorted pots just about everywhere, these little button zinnias are popping into bloom, many of them the spoils of my indoor zinnia seeding project of late winter.   They are making themselves known in a host of colors:  yellow, orange, red, white…and pink, like these little buttercream sweeties.     I also noticed that some of the bachelors buttons I seeded into a variety of different pots are growing nicely, though there are no blooms in sight just yet.   More treats for September.


Here’s the best I could do for getting a group photo of all the porch plantings and to get that, I had to lean out over the side of the deck.   I’d have gotten a better shot from the roof, perhaps, but you’ll find no daredevil here.


Summer’s Second Act is about to begin, but I think I’ll find the character of things has changed a bit.   I know I’ll be mellowing out my frantic summer fun pace, since the end of this week finds me going in for a bit of surgery.  “A bit of surgery.”  Ha, you’d almost think I wasn’t freaking out about it at all, wouldn’t you?

Actually, I’m doing much better now.   And the thing is, it’s not such a major procedure, really.  I mean, I’m having this because a hernia was discovered during a routine physical, so the repair job is largely preventative and not because I’ve done myself some catastrophic damage that needs fixing.   I expect I’ll be back on my feet after a few days, but I’m told sitting may remain uncomfortable for longer than that.   (So great.  Not only will I be recovering from going under the knife for the first time ever, but I’ll be suffering Facebook withdrawals, to boot.   Heh.)


I was driving myself a little barmy with worry earlier in the day.  It’s just not fair:  Heat vision, Flight, Super Strength, Telekinesis.  So many super-powers to choose from and I get Worse Case Scenario Vision.   Even Superman’s Freezy Breath would be better.  Ugh.

Mostly I was a little frantic about pulling details together:  wanting to get the apartment tidied a bit, needing to make sure that things in the office are ready for me to be away from it for nearly a week…and of course, there’s the procedure itself, with which I’ve no real familiarity.   Just for fun, the adhesive-backed picture hangers have been taking turns failing, dropping their framed photo collages when I’m least in the mood.  For a bonus, today was probably the wrong day for me to come across an online article about things to worry about when visiting the hospital, so there’s that, too.

I’m happy to say that I was able to get away for a sunset walk after dinner tonight.   It helped a lot to get my brain out for a walk, to let it sort through things while I strolled along the usual way, looking into assorted gardens, watching the sun sink toward the horizon, listening to the birds and the crickets (whose song has suddenly begun to ring through the night with the turning of the calendar page).   It’s really hard to stay all knotted up and freaked out, too, when you take your shoes off and walk barefoot through some soft white beach sand.

So, I’ll be away from the blog for a bit.   Hopefully not too long, as I do already have some additional posts planned to share with you, and since its August, there’s always more to see and do.  Meanwhile, don’t worry about me:  Mom and Dad are coordinating a bit of Cape vacation time so they’ll be around to look in on me and I have a feeling Nurse Kitty will take good care of me, too.

No doubt he’ll be touting catwalking as great physical therapy.