Early June

June (10)As much as I treasure the spring season, early June is a garden moment like no other.  Every tree and shrub is in full leaf, and growing apace. Just about every perennial is not only growing, they are making plans to bloom. Even my hardy hibiscus show signs of stirring. The garden is action packed. The Princeton Gold maples against a a stormy sky last night-spectacular. Those trees dominate my landscape in June, as you can see. One would never know there are houses just past those trees.  Just this year, the last of the electrical pole in the corner that services 3 other houses besides mine and its overhead wires have disappeared from view.

June (5)My landscape is not one bit fancy, although it is grown up. It is an urban American garden to my liking on a very small parcel of land. It is simple in design, so if it gets neglected when I am busy, order can be restored in a day or two. I like the orderly part of my landscape, as I find that order relaxing. The best part of coming home at the end of a busy day is having nothing to do in the garden.

June (8)What I will plant around the fountain this year is the subject of much internal debate. I can only ask Buck to talk to me about it so many times, and I have already gone over the limit. What is that plant that will like the sun at one end, and tolerate the shade at the other?  It has to suffer the indignity of the dogs wading through it. And the over spray from the fountain jets on a windy day. I solved one chronic problem this spring. I had the irrigation system enlarged to include this area. No more dragging the hose down there from the deck on a 90 degree August day. I tried isotoma fluvialitis, but it was not hardy for me.  I did get 3 years from both herniaria, and scotch moss.

the beginning of June (8)I have yet to do one thing in this garden, and it doesn’t show – but for the dirt around the fountain. The month of June is the busiest of my year. This year is exceptionally busy. Several landscape projects are in process, in addition to the summer plantings. The fact that all I have to do when I get home is look around is a relief.

the beginning of June (10)I have not planted my pots yet, but I have plenty enough going on to keep my eyes occupied. I will try to have them planted by June 15.  Annual and tropical plants going into soil that is thoroughly warmed up will take hold and grow with little in the way of transplant shock. To follow are more pictures of my early June garden, without much commentary. I need to go attend to someone else’s garden right now.

the beginning of June (1)

the beginning of June (2)The Palibin lilacs are beautiful this year.  I have a pair on standard that have to be close to 30 years old.

the spring garden (13)Picea abies

the beginning of June (3)maple leaves and boxwood

June (6)landscape in early June

June (4)The driveway pots are ready to plant. Do I know what I will plant?  No. But deciding what to plant is more than half the fun of it.

June (3)the stairs to the kitchen door

June (2)Sum and Substance hosta under a parrotia.June (7)The pots in front are ready to plant. I will get to the weeds in the gravel sometime soon.

the beginning of June (5)I have a June landscape, not so much a garden garden. I like a vase of cut flowers in my garden in June as often as possible. I don’t want to miss out on anything.

 

 

 

Winter’s Icy Grip

icy-day.jpgA week ago, both my garden and I were laid low by nature’s icy grip. Steady rains over several days and declining temperatures resulted in a rare late December ice storm.  My garden was spared the worst of the storm, which mostly laid waste to landscapes north of us.  I was not so fortunate.  I woke up a week ago Monday with a miserably bad cold.  How could something so ordinary be so utterly debilitating?

ice-storm.jpgFrozen is a word that routinely characterizes the winter landscape.  But ice that accumulates on plants in the landscape can result in terrible damage to life and limb.  Water is very heavy.  Water that is glued fast to small branches can break them.  Ice on evergreens can bring their boughs down to the ground.  An ice storm last March broke a major branch on one of my dogwoods.  That branch, with only a little wood and the bark on the bottom side still intact, bloomed normally, and had a full compliment of leaves all summer.  It is loaded with flower buds for the spring.  Every few hours I would check out the window to see if the weight of the ice would break that branch off altogether.  Obviously the will to live is a strong one; the branch survived the ice.

ice-storm.jpgAll that night and into the next morning, I could hear the sounds of branches crashing to the ground. I only hoped that none of them were in my yard.  I do prune my trees and shrubs regularly, in the hopes that they will successfully weather wind, snow and ice.  But our street trees are not kept up by the city forestry department.  All of the pruning to the trees is done, on an irregular basis –  and in a very messy way – by a stormy weather event.  Dead, diseased or damaged branches weighted by ice did break loose from the trees.  Nature can be benign, beautiful, and violently destructive.  If you are a gardener, you have seem all of the aforementioned.

iced-over.jpgThe ice glittered, even though the day was entirely overcast.  Fascinating and frightening accurately describes nature’s icy grip.

winter-container.jpgThe winter pots in the driveway were all the better for the ice.  The curly ting and white leptospermum bowed their branchy heads in a most graceful way.

winter-container.jpgOnly the icy weather could create this swooping shape from materials known for their stiff and inflexible habit.  Bowing to the force of nature creates all kinds of unexpected shapes in the landscape.  Trees whose mature shapes are dictated by a windswept or otherwise hostile environment are a marvel to behold.  The marvel of the common cold is that the day finally comes when that virus loosens its grip, and you feel you might be able to breathe, eat and sleep again.

winter container.jpgI am happy to report that the ice is melting.

 

Tuesday Opinion: Rhythm

Someday I will  plant a giant circle of deciduous trees.  Or a square. or a rectangle, or an irregularly shaped enclosure of trees.  Most of the trunks will be too close together.  There may be one entrance, which is also an exit.  There may be an entrance and a separate exit.  There may be one entrance, and several exits. There may be one entrance on axis, and other oblique entrances. No matter the shape, the canopies of the trees will create a tent.  Inside the tent, there will be a bench, or a collection of benches.  The garden on the outside of the tree tent will be inviting and friendly.  The inside of the tree tent will be plain.  Just grass, and a place to sit.  I would visit the tree tent every day, every season, year round.  Maybe very early, before work.  Maybe late in the day, after work.  Maybe more than twice a day.   Why would I want such a garden? A daily garden?  For the sake of rhythm.

Like most gardeners, I am tuned into my garden at specific times of the year.  The first signs of spring.  The spring trees blooming.  The planting of the spring-and the summer pots.  The roses coming on.  The late summer garden.  The fall, and finally the winter.  These moments are an intense experience.  The hellebores in full bloom make me feel dizzy, my focus is that intense.  Other times, I barely notice what is in front of my eyes.  I have this issue to attend to, or that.  The delphiniums may be sending up a strong second flush that I barely acknowledge.   Up and down-that would be me in the garden.  Miss topsy-turvy.  Would that I could be more consistent and less scattered.

On and off is not my favorite place to be.  A lengthy “on period” means I can establish a rhythm.  It is not so tough to imagine this.  In simple terms, practice makes perfect.  Those times when I am focused on the garden, day to day, my garden benefits.  The 2 months I spend planting summer pots-I am quite sure the last of those pots are the best.  Once I have gotten into a rhythm, there is flow.  I stop thinking about what to do, and just do.  Stating and stopping and starting up again in the garden shows.  A design may appear disjointed, or fragmented.  Or even worse, careless.

A regular rhythm is like a pulse, like a heart that beats regularly.  Repetition sets the stage for a rhythmic expression.  The big idea here-anything you attend to, or practice every day establishes a rhythm.  Once you have a rhythm going on, a beautiful expression is not far behind.

As for my tree tent-I imagine it as a place to recapture that sense of rhythm.  A place that can store momentum.  Of course the tree tent is an idea that could exist only in my imagination.  Maybe the real solution is to figure out how to keep the door to imagination propped open.  Today I have a large Christmas tree to decorate. It is a project I have not done before. I have assembled a collection of materials-they will be looking at me.  And my crew will be looking at me. I am sure I will be trying out different arrangements, stopping and starting, until that certain state of mind that I call rhythm gets switched on.

 

 

Sunday Opinion: The Leftovers

Thanksgiving dinner at our house always means lots of leftovers.  Buck’s style of cooking has its roots in his Texan background.  When he cooks, he cooks for the many.  That is his idea of hospitality-more than plenty to eat.  Though our dinner was limited to the two of us, he cooked a huge pan chock full of short ribs, a pot brimming with brussel sprouts, and an endless store of mashed potatoes and stuffing.  To accompany said potaoes and stuffing – gallons of gravy.  The cranberry relish would have been enough for 8, with several servings in reserve.  No matter all of this leftover food.  He had leftovers for breakfast and lunch on Friday.  Thanksgiving dinner for breakfast the day after?  He chowed down.  He persuaded me that the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers would provide a perfect day after dinner.  This holiday dinner fueled the both of us through Saturday.

I went along, although leftovers are not my favorite.  I rarely am faced with the second round of a dinner idea-he sees to that.  Buck would never dream of oatmeal or eggs or cereal for breakfast, though this menu would be my first choice.  Whatever we had left over from the previous night’s dinner is his breakfast of choice. I would not be interested in last night’s pork chop with a side of last night’s field peas first thing the following morning.  But I am interested that he eats our leftovers with gusto.  This means I don’t have to.  We have an arrangement regarding leftovers that works.  By this I mean, we do not throw food away.

Though I am not a big fan of leftover food, I have a tough time throwing away any leftover materials.  This may mean half bunches of eucalyptus, a few stems of curly willow, a glass garland with a broken bulb, a cracked pot, a feathered bird with a broken clip, a cattail wreath with a stain, an acorn stem that is missing some acorns.   I have an astonishing collection of those materials though perfect, have gone unloved.  Why do I keep them?  I like the challenge.

Years ago, I did weekly flower arrangements for a client.  She has a company which purchased cut flowers for events.  I would arrive on her doorstep every week, with boxes full of flowers waiting for me.  She did not choose them, nor did I.  But my job was to take those stems not of my choosing or hers, and make something of them that she would like.  There would be no rhyme or reason to the contents of the box.  Perhaps her supplier packaged up the weekly leftovers, and sent them along.  Perhaps whomever packed the boxes was not so focused on enabling an end result.  Did I call the office with a long list of complaints?  Absolutely not.  I loved the challenge of making much of a group of flowers that seemed to have no relationship whatsoever sing together.  Week after week, I did flower arrangements from the flowers sent to me.

My winter pots at home will be constructed from the leftovers at the shop.  Do I feel slighted?  Not in the least.  Any leftover material can be arranged in a beautiful way.  Creating something beautiful is not about the materials.  It is always about the imagination, the thought,  and the effort.  Those leftovers, the perennial stems still standing, the branches from the field down the street, the damaged picks, the browned hydrangea blooms, the leftover string, the broken bits from last year, the materials from the field next door, the fresh cuttings from the garden-materials you can use.  The most beautiful materials on the planet does not demand so much from you.  The leftovers ask for the best you have to give to them, and to yourself.

I like the idea that the leftovers available to me might spark my best work ever.  There is so much to be thankful for – including that client who was confident that I could make something of anything.