Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family Time

It's been a while since we've entertained in the garden, or in the house for that matter. The spring was busy with increased responsibilities at work for the BackBou and end-of-school/planning-for-trip duties for me. And following our trip to Norway, we were quarantined due to some unwanted lice hitchhikers from the old country (is anybody itching now?).

We're already looking ahead to our big pumpkin party before Halloween and thinking about how to accommodate friends, pumpkin carving, pizza eating, and crazy children. (I know it's early. What can I say? We're planners.)

Nora and Rosie create pizzas under the watchful eye of the BackBou

But for now, as July dwindles to an end and the dog days of August loom ahead, we focus on family time and food: homemade pizzas, baked in an ancient way and served in the warm evening air.

We are enjoying the laziness of summer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Playtime in the Garden

Small gardens have to fill lots of different functions in one space. When I originally designed the garden, I wanted it to hold mystery for the children: paths, crowded with plants, that could be entrances into other worlds; a green space to lie down and gaze at the stars or the clouds; fruit, veggies, and herbs to snack on during playtime.

Nora's Sunflower, unmarked seeds from last year

My two girls each have a small 3.5'x4.5' garden box of their own. They pick out the seeds and then are primarily responsible for planting and nurturing the beds. My initial attitude was that they, of course, needed my help and that I would be their teacher and guide. It turns out, they are much better gardeners than I am. Their garden boxes are gorgeous.

When my children had friends over last week, they first had snack on the patio and then went in search of adventure.

They may have been pirates sailing in search of treasure.

Or wild animals hunting prey.

Or simply farmers inspecting their crops.

Whatever the case, they struck gold in Rosie's garden.

Exploring nature, making discoveries, losing yourself in imagination ... and then getting to eat your treasure -- what could be better?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - July 2008

It's my first Bloom Day post! In my enthusiasm, I photographed every living thing in the garden. Then I had to cull. Here are the blooms that bring me joy right now. This is how I'm "praying with my eyes" and with my nose in regards to the jasmine and lilies!

I've been received some intense aromatherapy from the white oriental lilies and the jasmine by the patio. The late evening perfume is delicate yet powerfully affecting.

I found a little zinnia poking out of the crocosmia -- when will the crocosmia bloom? Must I wait much longer?

This Pentas was one of the plants I bought when blueberry picking to fill in spots after my manic culling of the ugly. I wonder if it will survive the winter since I'm not technically a zone 8, but some zone 8s winter over for me. It will be interesting to see what happens since I like having it here.

I find playing with the whites and greens so soothing in the mid-summer Virginia garden. When temps rise to over 95 degrees, the variegated foliage of the yucca and the simple whites of the phlox and the hydrangea paniculata are like a tall glass of limeade.

Before we left for our trip, I threw some old Scarlet Runner Bean seeds in the alley by the gate. They are running for sure now! Over the spent astilbe, the roses with black spot, and the struggling clematis. I'm going to do this every year, the spots of red are a nice focal point all the way in the back of the garden.

Rosie is growing these cosmos in her garden. As with the runner beans, these are old seeds from the basement fridge. What an incredible orange color.

The giant rudbeckia are a good 5 feet tall. No staking needed yet. I can't wait for the goldfinches to start flocking.

The globe thistle is fading, but it is still one of my favorite garden plants. Gorgeous in the garden and in flower arrangements, it's worth the staking. Thanks for visiting and hope you enjoy the pictures!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mid-Summer Mania in the Garden

I love returning from a trip ready to incorporate new discoveries into my daily life. After this trip, I brought home: a newfound love for cultured milk, cloudberries, and black currants; a determination that our family needs to camp more often; and the will to overcome my dislike of hardboiled eggs. I also returned with a more objective perspective on the garden.

The most arresting outcome of this new perspective is that I am actually making changes. I am removing the ugly from the garden. Old scraggly mums ripped up. Blackberry lilies that had naturalized to the wrong places torn out. And the native daylilies banished to the alley.

I am taking back prime real estate. I tucked some perennials and some annuals into the spaces that opened up and I'm just thrilled with the changes.

Why is it that I wasn't ready to act during October, November, or February? Why am I full of executive energy now that it's the worst time to transplant?* I should be simply weeding, watering, and deadheading.

And to top it all off, I've decided to transplant ... hydrangeas. Hmm. Now let me see, prudent? I think not. (However, I felt a bit vindicated after reading Susan Harris' admission that she also will give in to the urge to transplant during mid-summer.)

Here are the hydrangeas in the spot where they get full sun (they didn't when I planted them, but a neighbor cut down some trees and now, sun).

One has been moved (I'm watering it often with a soaker hose) and the rest will go soon.

The spot will become full of native wildflowers and grasses. I'm combing through the book Wildflower Gardens and hope to have something spectacular here next year -- full of mid-summer beauty, bees, and butterflies. Maybe something good will come out of my mania ...

*Full Disclosure: I was transplanting then. I just never stopped. I can't stop. I'm always moving things, ripping out, tucking in ...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reflections on Norway

I have so many half-formed posts from our trip and also from the return home. There's been so much action in the garden! I was gone for two weeks and 3 days but by the look of the garden, you'd think I was Rip Van Winkle and away for 20 years! I will try to intersperse Norway posts with current garden posts ...

Norway, Southern Norway anyway, had previously suffered from a dry spring with wildfires in the countryside. Our arrival seemed to invite a break from this -- it rained off and on almost the entire trip. And it was cold. Long sleeved shirt, polartech, rain jacket, wish-I-had-packed-mittens cold. But when the sun came out? Perfection!

However, we were prepared for anything and I have a deep soulful love and understanding of moody weather (could it be the Irish heritage?). We chose to go to Norway to honor Peter's family roots and to visit with relatives but also to be humbled. Humbled by magestic landscapes and the progressive, innovative Norwegian people. (And also to check out the incredible Norwegian knitting traditions, but that's a post for the other blog!)

I was amazed by the lupines, the lilacs, and the alpine wildflowers. The exquisite plants that thrive in the harshest conditions illustrates what I have witnessed from my counseling experience. What does not kill us makes us stronger and, if we let it, radiantly beautiful.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jet Lagged

I'm back from Norway. I'll try to post some pictures soon. But I have to post my favorite flower of the trip. If I'm not mistaken, this is a Northern Marsh Orchid. I saw many on a hike in the Lofoten Islands, above the Arctic Circle. Someone please correct or confirm if you know for sure!