Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Mama Calls Me Moon Pie

Sometimes a person's name just doesn't match the person. But I've decided the same can be true of plants. Just a few days into true summer and it's time to reLatin the garden. Goodbye names that trip off your tongue to fall to the grass with a clink and an oops and hello names that tell me exactly what I need to know.

'"My mama calls me Moon Pie!"

Stachys 'Bee plant of amazingness'

This thrives in my rain garden.

aka stachys 'Hummelo'

I grew this 'Black Beauty' from seed and this is the only survivor. I'm underwhelmed.

Dahlia disappointus

Handcrafted by Ted Freeman of Roundhouse Works, this functional house is built entirely of repurposed vintage building materials.

Birdhouse extraordinarius

Campanula collapsus

This seed grown variety was supposed to be bright red.

Salvia surprisus

Canine sohappyii

Hostas 'fromAnnetteium'

 Snapdragon I want to grow you foreverfolius

aka snapdragon 'Frosted Flames' 

I started these seeds in January after receiving them as a bonus pack with one of my orders. 
I love them!

These grew so well for me I have two pots full.

Echinacea 'Leaning flower of Pisa'

Monarda 'Rastafarian Redhead' aka 'Jacob Cline'

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Double Scoop of C'est la Vie

'Jude the Obscure' rose

Four months ago

Sun-loving native wine cups (callirhoe involucrata) thriving in bone dry partial shade. 

it was too cold and snowy.

Clematis 'Baltyk'

Three weeks ago

Looking across part of the container garden into the rain garden.

it was too wet and rainy.

Seed grown dahlias

Two days ago

'Summertime Blues' campanula with a plant stake
 to mark the location of the soaker hoses.

it was only 46 F at night

Native spigelia marylandica in the shade garden 

so I closed the windows

These are supposed to attract hummingbirds.

 to keep from freezing.

White annual euphorbia and seed grown cosmos
 in a cheap bucket.

Today it is miserable hot

These will bloom all summer.

and my soaker hoses 

'Purple Fantasy' persicaria in dry partial shade

will be running all day.

But that's life. 
It's messy, unpredictable, and often ridiculous
but still absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Little Something About Nothing

 Part of the shade garden

Sometimes I just don't have a story,

 Mini clover is my favorite ground cover.

 a joke,

 A bumblebee on the lamium 'Pink Nancy'.

 or anything introspective to say. 

 Looking towards the rain garden from another shady area.

Of course,

 Waiting for the horned rampion to bloom.

 I'm usually asleep when that happens.

 I have a lot of shade!

But when I went out in my garden this week

 Etoile Violet clematis

this is what I saw and

 Peggy Martin roses and false spirea (sobaria 'Sem')

I loved it so much

Lucy on the lookout for squirrels.

 I decided to share.

I bought this Louisiana iris purely for its name - Red Velvet Elvis.

That's all.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Growing Hope: The Tale of the Gardener's Son


He stands barefoot in the kitchen and calls to me, "Mom. Mom. Mama!" He is too tall to only be three, his face serious, hair white blonde from the sun. I am alone for four months with an infant and a toddler, my husband thousands of miles away at military flight school. 

"I'm gonna go pull weeds. I need to think." He is intelligent and precise, too small for such big thoughts. 

A small patch of zinnias grows in the back amid grass and dandelions, stems thin and dry. I slide the baby monitor in my pocket and follow him outside. He crouches in the soil, knees to his chest, tiny fingers slipping between the plants to pull what doesn't belong.

"It's okay, Mama", he says softly "I'm gonna feel better." 

My son, age 3


His truck rumbles into the driveway loaded with mulch and the garage door slams. I stop and look up, his eyes meeting mine. The conversation is tense and I'm tired of dealing with him alone. It's the same argument we've been having for years and I'm exhausted. He's bored with my questions and I don't like his answers. He towers over me, 6'5" of muscle with massive hands and arms tight like steel. His response is delivered with machine gun accuracy and his words strike wounds still tender, ripping the flesh to bleed again.

I jump on the nearest kitchen chair and stand with my hands my hips, staring down at him. "I'll stand on a chair to kick your ass if I have to!" I growl. He laughs, a baritone roar that thunders through the house.

"Hey, don't laugh at your mama!" 

He stops, wipes his eyes, and keeps chuckling before his laughter erupts again. "Mom, I'm sorry but seriously, I can't stop laughing. Please get off the chair."

We are the same: expressive, strong, stubborn. My anger, brief and bright like a firecracker, is ebbing and I feel a smile starting, the corners of my mouth inching upward as he waits. He may look like a man, I tell myself, but he's still just a kid.

We sit at the table and talk, debate, and try to understand each other. I take a deep breath and pull him close. 

"Damn, Mom, why do you always have to hug me?" 

Tears of joy! 
My son returned from a nine month deployment to Kuwait and northern Iraq on Tuesday.

May, 2016

The dogs bark and pace in front of the back door as I dump my purse on the table and follow them outside, hungry for sunshine after a day in a windowless classroom. The flash of the answering machine blinks and I stop to play the message, my eyes on the garden.

"Hey, it's me. I'm calling from Kuwait and just wanted to let you know my time is Iraq is over.  Love you."

His deep voice fills the kitchen and my throat tightens. Tears held behind a wall of Keep It Together overflow their banks and cascade down my cheeks. I take a deep breath and let the sobs pour onto the counter, my shoulders shaking as I drop my head onto my arms. Months of waiting for his messages and hoping he's okay are over.

My son is alive and coming home.

Exhausted from 30 hours of travel, my son, now 24 and an Iraqi war veteran, patiently posed for just one more photo.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It Could Be Worse....

'Ville de Lyon' clematis

We've had so much rain lately, my lawn squishes when I walk. 
But I could be in a drought so I'm not complaining.

Looking into the shade garden

I had a fox in my garden last night but it could be worse. 
It could have been a  t-rex.


Rain flattened amsonia 'Blue Ice' and 'Autumn Charm' sedum.

I haven't seen the sun in days but it could be worse.
 I could be a judge at a farting contest.

Just focusing on the positive....

Native clematis crispa reminds me of an octopus.

The native grass, carex, is taking over my riverbed
 but at least it's not poison ivy. 

There are swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in my parsley 
so everything is mighty fine, indeed.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Missing the Robot

When I was a kid I was lucky enough to live in a low-rent neighborhood near a 50 foot tall robot, complete with red lights for eyes. He was the guardian of a reclusive eccentric who had created a compound of fantastical creatures built from cast off scraps and rusted metal. A massive fence and padlocked gate squashed every adolescent whim of sneaking in for a closer look. When the city finally decided to revitalize the area, he was the first to go.  I deemed any progress made after he left a total failure. After all, nothing spelled out "Damn straight, we're a class act" like a giant robot. 

As much as I would love to add an enormous robot to my garden for the sheer joy of breaking every landscaping covenants rule my stuffy neighborhood has cooked up, I've resisted. It hasn't been easy. Instead I've added garden art much less spectacular but that's ok. I'll leave the eccentric to his genius and settle for the merely whimsical or sentimental.

Moving 17 times in 34 years taught me to keep only what's important or meaningful. But this bowl, purchased in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, is packed with memories. Even after it broke during my last move, I couldn't bear to toss it. I'm glad I've finally found a spot for it in the garden. It holds up perennial snapdragons self-seeded into a crack on the patio. 

These were like the robot - a wonderful surprise.

When my dogs ran over my gnome in my Gnome B Gone, I quickly replaced it.

Anchored in the soil with sticks stuffed into the body where the feet should be, the broken gnome looks like it's about to be arrested. I probably shouldn't find that funny but I do.

I have over 20 birdhouses but having lived in South Dakota I couldn't resist this one.

My button bird bath hasn't held up to the weather as well as I was hoping but I still love it.

Buttons and birdhouses?  This is a required purchase. 
Buying groceries and paying bills is so overrated. The blue metal rods are support stakes. 

 I have wrens living in the blue house.

Doesn't everyone decorate their succulents with ammonites and petrified wood?

I love anything round or curvy.

I thought the tansy needed some zing....

Apparently, I'm a sucker for stained glass, too,

and who can resist a cool mosaic?

That says it all!

Bradbury's monarda

But the ultimate artist is always Mother Nature.