Monday, May 22, 2017


During my first year in Kentucky I ordered a variety of heirloom poppies from Select Seeds.
I saved the dried pods and sprinkled seeds throughout the gardens.
I brought saved seed when we moved to our current location.
Thus far the dominant poppy is 'Lauren's Grape'.
I'm hoping some of my favorite deep reds will yet bloom.
It may be time to order a few different kinds for next season.

Newly opened poppy--morning fresh.

A 'sugar bowl' effect.

Poppies are at their loveliest for a matter of hours.

My favorite of that morning's photos.

Too soon wind and rain damage the fragile petals.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Day of Green Darkness

I woke to the muffled booming of thunder and the pattering of rain. The scent of freshly rinsed grass, drenched  leaves and damp earth seeped past fluttering curtains, into the green darkness of the bedroom. 
I closed my eyes, tried to pretend that I wasn't awake. 
The thought of kitchen and sun room windows left open overnight niggled at me as the drumming of rain on the roof increased.
When I swung my feet over the side of the bed and sat up I was surprised to find Teasel cat crouched on the rug. 
She kept pace with me down the stairs and into the gloom of the kitchen.
The windows were shut.
It was unsettling to realize that I must have slept through Jim prowling the rooms earlier when the rain began.
I pulled on clothes, shoved my feet into rubber crocs and padded out to the porch.
Charlie-cat burst through the opened door with his usual cheery morning natter.
One sniff of the rainy day outside convinced the boy cats and Teasel that they didn't want to risk wet feet and they backed away from the doorway in distaste.

I tended plants and seedlings on the side porch, then during a lull in the rain headed down to the garden.  A toad scrabbled into the relative shelter beneath the rugosa that leaned over the steps; Willis popped up beside me, ready to serve as escort.
 Raindrops splattered through the canopy of the oaks beyond the garden fence.

Trees cover the ridges which enfold our house on three sides; during a summer rain they seem to lean in, casting a dark green gloom.

The blooms on my newly planted clematis are ravaged by the rain, the petals stained and shabby.

The nameless rose in the fence corner is having a second flush of bloom.
It too, suffered an overnight beating from the rain.

 The unstoppable rugosa has been growing out of bounds for several weeks.
Now, weighted with rain, over-reaching branches presented a hazard, scratching at me as I walked up the steps.  I found gloves and pruners, lopped off the offenders.

Loud rumblings of thunder heralded a fresh assault of rain.
Willis and I hurried for the shelter of the porch.

Bobby Mac, who is terrorized by thunder, has refused to go outside, instead hovering all day underfoot, retreating under the bed during bursts of rain.

Walking down the lane in the calm of early evening, I looked back to note swirls of grey mist drifting in from the woods, shrouding the porch, floating over the garden. 
The air feels thick and humid, harbinger of the long weeks of summer.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Potting On

16 March
A few days prior to my March birthday a tantalizing package arrived bearing the Harry and David logo, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law.
In addition to a charming teapot, there was a miniature rose. It was in a 4 inch pot with spaghnum moss neatly tucked around the base of the plant.
It took several days for the plant to 'relax' and the buds to open after being removed from the plastic shipping sleeve. 

21 March
I could tell that the plant was becoming root bound, so gently removed it from the small pot.
As I teased the tangled roots loose from the soil I discovered the pot held three plants!

16 April
By mid-April I moved the roses onto the edge of the side porch.
During several frosty nights they were sheltered beneath a heavy bath towel.

1 May
Growing and thriving.

7 May
These black and gold plastic pots are worthy of the elegant mini-roses, as well as sturdy and affordable. I've never grown a miniature rose, so I'm delighted that thus far all three are thriving. 
I've placed them on one of the concrete steps that lead down the slope from the side porch. 
Not sure how I'll deal with them come winter, but I have plenty of time to think about that!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It Always Rains On The Peonies!

I had an errand or two in town on the 24th of April, a sunny pleasant morning.  I'm not keen on trundling around the square seeking a parking space, so usually leave the car elsewhere and walk in to the bank, insurance office, or where ever I need to be.
 Business accomplished, on a whim I decided to walk back to my car through a block of residential streets below the square. In addition to a bit of exercise, there was the pleasure of strolling past tidy yards where clumps of iris and late tulips danced in the breeze, while petals drifted onto green grass from a variety of shrubs and small trees.

I caught the sun-warmed scent of them before I saw them: peonies in a sprawl close to the sidewalk. Buds were rimmed with a hint of rose, the blowsy cups of half-open blooms were creamy white, perhaps the old-fashioned variety, 'Maxima.'
Back at home I inspected my own peonies--I have seven, 
The buds were still clasped tight in their green jackets.

The first blossoms began to open on May 2nd.

This may be the heirloom, Sarah Bernhardt. It is a division of a huge plant flourishing at the Gradyville property.
We worked in the gardens through that sunny Tuesday afternoon knowing that rain was on the way.

This lovely thing came to me nameless, discovered amongst an offering of red peonies at a 
garden center.

Wednesday, May 3rd, was a gloomily green morning. 
As I harvested kale and Swiss chard the rain began, icy droplets sliding beneath the collar of my shirt.

Dumping the colander of greens in the kitchen sink I ran outside to rescue my peonies.

Roses and iris were taking a beating as well as the peonies.

I gathered what I could, shaking each flower gently to dislodge moisture and tiny ants.

The rain continued through Saturday, sometimes a gentle mist, more often cold wind-driven
sheets of water.
Each morning I scuttled out, shears in hand, to clip the fresh crop of bedraggled blossoms.

It has always rained on the peonies!
In my native Vermont we hoped for the earliest varieties to appear by the end of May, to be added to sprays of purple and white lilac for the 'Decoration Day' exercises at school.
In an ideal springtime peonies were at their elegant best, with lemon lilies and mock orange, to grace graduation ceremonies and June weddings.

Peonies don't enjoy rain.  The heavy satiny heads collect water, slender stems bend outward and downward with the weight of it, and the whole bush collapses in an unlovely sodden sprawl.
Anticipating this seasonal onslaught of ill-timed rain, I have often labored with stakes and twine, attempting to stabilize each bush. I've spread mulch around the perimeter of the plants hoping to minimize the splattering of rain-pummeled soil.

I can never save all the peonies.  I fill the McCoy vases, the clear glass vases, tuck the shorter stems into ceramic jugs. 
The blossoms relax in the sheltered warmth of the house, silky petals unfold, the delicately exotic scent vies with the fragrance of full blown roses.

When the peony petals fall I add them to the bowl where rose petals are drying, the time-honored way of cherishing fleeting loveliness.
It always rains on the peonies--but I can't imagine a garden without them.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Flowers Before Rain

Once again, photos loaded several days ago and not posted.
We had several cool bright days that were good for the garden.
The roses have blossomed ahead of the yearly Japanese Beetle invasion.
The pale pink are Hawkeye Belle, red are Double Knock-out and the variegated rose is the one which was languishing, name tag missing, in a dry dark spot at the end of the side porch. 
Moved to the fence corner in the garden it has flourished.
A night or two of frost early in April shriveled a few tips of new leaves which had to be pruned, but the plant--a shrub rose type--quickly recovered.

A delicate scent enhances the rich colors of the blossoms.

Iris came on in a rush. My iris are roots transplanted from several gardens.

White foxglove raised last year from seed.
There is a backdrop of the invasive unnamed weed which has pushed in from the back side of the fence.

Empress of India nasturtiums.

Clematis Candida has been a joy this spring. There was only one bloom last year.
I lost count after the first dozen opened.  The vine scrambled up the trellis and with minimal coaxing trailed along the fence. 

Rosa Therese Bugnet. The canes tend to straggle, but the blossoms are soft and blowsy, sweet scented.

Duchess of Edinburgh has settled in nicely. 

The iris were going past their first beauty in this photo.  I admire them for persisting in that strip of shallow and rocky soil.

If there are seed heads still intact when the current siege of rain lets up, I'd like to try starting new plants from seed as an experiment.

Therese Bugnet, fully opened.

Iris in the sheltered raised bed against the south wall of the shop.
They were plonked there at the time of our November move in 2014 and perhaps need to join the others in the strip along the lane.

Clematis seed head.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


I received a letter this week from a man who has served for some years as guardian to Hester and Sally Phelps. I recognized his name as someone who was a pupil of my late mother when she was teaching in a rural school 50 years ago. 
I drove past his family home for a number of years on my way to work. 

The purpose of the letter was to inform me that the essay I posted as a tribute to Hester and her family had instead been a cause of distress to her sister.
The post was shared beyond my immediate list of 'followers' and the response had been respectful.
That it should have hurt Sally, having been viewed as an inappropriate airing of family history has shaken me considerably. 
I am aware that when there is a sense of betrayal it is difficult to 'back-track.'
Honest explanations and apologies can sound like feeble efforts to deny accountability.
I've reflected deeply regarding where I was emotionally when writing the essay.

My thoughts explored not only the loss of one person who had been a positive influence in my life, but expanded to contemplate the reality that Hester was one of the last of my parents' generation. 

Inevitably we endure the loss of the grandparents, the aunts and uncles who inhabit the small safe realm of childhood. Sometime in our middle years our parents become ill and infirm, and with their passing comes the realization that we ourselves are now becoming the 'elderly.'

Many of the families in the rural farming community where I was raised had been settled there for several generations, often occupying ancestral homes, carrying on a family farm or business.
The histories of these individuals and their families were part of our neighborhood heritage. 
Perhaps I absorbed an unusual amount of these family 'stories.'
We tacitly allowed for the inheritance of tragedy or loss or difficulty that impacted certain individuals, just as we accepted their passed down gifts and talents
I recognized fairly early in life that we are each a fearful and wonderful mixture of quirks and foibles!

I believe that family stories, the happenings that have shaped us, need to be preserved, should be available to those younger members of a tribe who have an interest.
 I began nearly two decades ago to write the tales recalled from times spent listening to the reminiscences of my grandfather, my mother, the maternal great-aunts. Most recently the tales have come from my father's younger sister, aided by her daughter and son.
These are the 'stories'--but I've also spent time on serious research for the data which supports the vital events of several generations.

Where, then, did I go so sadly wrong in the writing and sharing of what was intended as a tribute?
The 'guardian' in his missive labeled me as "ignorant, insensitive, uncaring, and thoughtless."
He could have made his point, told me what I needed to know, without resorting to such scathing rebuke.
In struggling to understand my blunder, I think the error was in sharing a story that was not truly mine to share.  In that sense the concept of 'thoughtless' is perhaps well deserved, though not in quite the way that was intended.
I had hoped to honor one family of my neighborhood who endured a series of tragic losses but carried on gracefully, an influence of stability and inspiration in the community.
I regret that I became so focused on the 'story,' so engrossed in my own memories and emotions that I failed to widen my outlook, failed to perceive that I might be over-stepping a boundary of discretion.

I've done what little I can to make amends. 
The post and all links to it have been removed. 
I've written two letters: one to Sally expressing my deep remorse at having unwittingly caused her distress.
I've composed what I hope is an appropriate response to the 'guardian' who was doubtless acting in his role as a protector. 
A person who resorts to sarcasm and harsh words to remonstrate with me probably has his own issues to deal with, and I didn't respond by groveling or attempting to change his assessment of me.

I share this only because I previously published the 'story' which resulted in misunderstanding.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


In the more than two weeks since my last post projects have been dictated by weather.
There have been cool showers, nights when rain drummed on the metal roof of the house.  Days have followed when sporadic sunshine and light winds have dried the soil to a workable consistency.
I have been determined to create a walkway along the 'L' of the flower strips--something that would define the edges of the plantings and make it possible to step there without squelching in mud.

I knew the task would be daunting, rather hoped that Jim might take pity on me and do the initial digging. When appealed to for suggestions or assistance  his reply was, in effect, that if I was determined to have a 'walk' I needed to get on with it, as he had other projects demanding his time.
The soil was just right for digging and I thought I could work down one side, allow time to recuperate and then complete my earth moving on another day.
My work went well, but as the afternoon lengthened the sky grew dark and the wind picked  up--harbingers of more rain. 
I gained the corner, leaned on my garden fork while assessing the length of ground yet to be turned, 

Storm clouds.

Green darkness.

Kale, Swiss chard and beets growing in the compost-enriched strip.

Green beans sprouting under various cat-deterring oddments.

A wonderful crop of kale!

Jim moving a woodshed not needed at the lower farmhouse.

Easy does it!

Woodshed set in place.

The Amish washroom is on the way to becoming a garage.

My untidy planting area on the side porch.

Morning glories.  The seed was saved from those that spilled over the pasture fence at the property we sold in the fall.

When I removed the miniature rose from its tiny pot [a gift from my son and DIL] I found three plants.  They are growing on in larger pots.

There is always a cat--or two--or three- to help with garden chores.  Nellie is particularly charming.

I loaded these photos days ago and they are now out of date!
I've spent many hours working outdoors.
The most necessary housework is done--after a fashion. 
I then fall into my old rocking chair to alternately read and doze off.
I pre-ordered the latest Maizie Dobbs mystery [Jacqueline Winspear] and decided to re-read the earlier books, so raced through those and have now devoured the new one.
I try to read slowly, to make a book 'last'--can't be done!