Monthly Archives: August 2012

As Unique as My Garden

I was doing a little catch-up weeding this morning when something caught my eye. It wasn’t just the fact that my Encore azalea had finally awakened into dazzling color after a long summer of growing its green. It was the fact that the soft pink perfectly matched the hue of my nearby roses – all except for one bloom.

It’s as if this azalea, half-hidden by the sunlight-hungry Siberian irises that have been crowding it out for the last two years, has been quietly studying up on motivational posters. You know the ones, where the eagle is soaring through a twilight sky, success printed in large letters below in case we somehow missed the obvious connection (I suppose) between flight and achievement. My azalea isn’t so subtle. I think it’s saying: “Hey! Hey,  you! Look at me! You can’t help it, can you? Yeah, that’s because I am unique, one-of-a-kind, beating my own drum, and looking darn good doing so, aren’t I? Try it! Be unique! Don’t be afraid to stand out on your own!”

Forget stopping to smell the roses. It’s amazing to hear what your garden has to say when you stop for a moment to listen.


Elm Nightmare on My Street

Truth be told, it was an oak nightmare, a pin oak if I’m reading my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees correctly. It all started the first week of June when I realized the tree in the front yard still looked like it had in mid-December. Not a single leaf on its canopy. Then, later that week, I was mowing the grass and realized I was running over more than a handful of sticks around the base of the tree. Finally, I saw the black canker running along the bark (or lack thereof) and knew I couldn’t delay the inevitable.

“Just put me out of misery” this oak begged for months before I finally listened.

Still, somehow I managed to delay the inevitable until the middle of August when a local crew of landscapers driving past spotted the naked top of my dead tree and offered their services. “Let’s do it,” I told them before they’d even finished asking if I’d be interested.

D&E Services made it look easy, taking the tall tree down in a matter of ten minutes while Akira and I watched in fascination. My biggest concern was that the tree, hugging the fence line, was within spitting distance of the neighbor’s roof, but they easily brought it down to the middle of the yard. D&E kindly limbed most of it and were quickly on their way.

Maybe I could skip the chainsaw and just call it front yard bench seating?

I spent the afternoon lugging branches to the back of the yard, the dog excitedly rounding up any loose sticks (and promptly carrying them back to the tree). I wanted to have the yard as clear as possible (which was not very clear in the end) by the time Chris came home, since I knew he was none too pleased I hadn’t paid the extra to have the wood removed. “Where are we going to put all this firewood?” he complained over the phone while the chainsaw was revving out front (I mentioned in an earlier post that he suffers from 1/4-acre syndrome and still hasn’t quite realized how vast our lot is).

“I’ll take care of it,” I assured him. “It’s about time I learned how to use a chainsaw anyway.” I won’t even get into the complaints that comment elicited, from Chris and other parties.

Truth be told, I had big plans for this downed tree. Enough firewood to finally make use of my fire pit whenever I want; plentiful Hammerschlagen stumps for our annual Oktoberfest party; stepping stones to save a spot for the flagstone that’s been on my list for months now, etc.

That last idea came courtesy of our Glacier National Park trip. Take a look at the following photo of the Grinnell Lake trail and tell me if that’s not clever.

My takeaway from Grinnell Lake was this clever use of abundant resources.

Right? And by the time these slabs of wood rot away, re-mulching my garden, maybe my bank account will better be able to handle the cost of the Stone Center’s flagstone.

So now I just have to work on this whole chainsaw toting thing. I’ll keep you posted!

Butterfly under Glass

My mosaic butterflies flit up the porch wall.

In my musings on local wildlife I didn’t mention the butterflies. I haven’t geared my garden toward attracting them, but have received more frequent visits from monarchs in the last few weeks. I like butterflies as much as the next girl, and have a few winged touches thrown about on my screened porch. They are one of the loveliest visitors to the garden, after all.

Apparently my tiled souvenirs of the Key West butterfly garden have seduced more modestly colored Virginia butterflies to entrapment in my screened porch. Like sirens, the large tiled insects have led a few poor swallowtails into the cool shadows of the screened porch, never to leave.

I found the butterfly above, which (who knew?) has helped me identify as an Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail, sitting prettily on my coffee table. After a moment’s admiration, I picked up its hind wing and dropped it into my little vase, showing off its beauty like Snow White in her glass coffin. I felt a little morbid – like the morning after you realize you forgot the holes in your lightning bug jar – but remembered the Key West gallery’s displays of lifeless butterflies in flight and figured it was only human nature to want to preserve this delicate beauty beyond its so-brief lifespan. Over coffee this morning, watching large yellow- and blue-winged butterflies bobbing erratically over the grass, I’ve been thinking about ways to encourage these insects to stay just a little while longer. What butterfly-friendly additions have you made to your garden?

An Especially Good Year for the Roses

Wow, a month has gone by and I haven’t provided an update to the garden! Oh right, that’s because of the killer heat that has done in my grass and has kept me and the dog locked indoors during the daylight hours. The heat has been great on the one hand, as I’ve been working non-stop for paying blogs, but terrible on the other hand because I know my dear readers are anticipating an update!

So for this week, I’ll just provide a simple update, with much, much more to follow next week.

I did promise several months ago to keep you posted on my Sweet Drift roses, the delicate pink border planted along the flowerbed I created earlier this year. Those roses have been the resounding success story of the summer, as they have taken off in a big way, with little upkeep or maintenance. I have a buried soaker hose that flows along the border of the deck-side flowerbeds, but never quite reaches the roses. Little matter, as they seem to thrive on neglect and shine under ridiculously hot weather. How else to explain the explosion of pink blooms at a time when every tree in the yard is wilting?

This explosion of Sweet Drift roses has thrived under the hottest of summer suns.

When I do venture outside, during the cool evening hours, the sweet smell of roses is heavy in the air on the deck, near the pond, and across the yard. The scent reminds me of summers at my grandmother’s house, and makes me smile, but if you’re the least bit sensitive to odors you’ll want to keep these happy vines far from the front walk.

As a good reminder for us all, Akira stops here to smell the roses.

The other happy plant this summer is, perhaps not surprisingly, the water lily. It took several months longer than expected, but about the middle of June the water plant finally began to flourish. It has had a couple of two-bloom days in the last week, and the leaves have become plentiful and big enough that our resident frog has taken to hiding under them. I can’t say enough in favor of plants I don’t have to water!

This water lily took several months to get growing, but by mid-July had become a koi haven.

Last, my Little Lime hydrangea has begun shooting its unique greenish blooms just where I can see them over the porch rail. It’s apparently enjoying its heavily shaded placement, and the spot it secured close to the origin of the soaker hose, as it’s been blooming steadily for about two weeks now. I’m anticipating a fair amount of pruning in the fall to see if I can promote more compact growth in this plant, but in the meantime am enjoying the tease of its blossoms just where I can see them from the front door.

This uniquely green-white hydrangea is thriving in heavy shade and regularly moistened soil.