Wednesday, September 30, 2015

All the Wobbly Bits

I once read an article about a gorgeous garden that was accompanied by a photo showing every plant perfectly positioned and well behaved. There was no slouching, leaning, or canoodling. There were no secret smooches between the flirty pink zinnias and that broad shouldered basil. If that garden were a party, they'd be drinking milk and playing bingo. Underneath those high collars and long skirts, those dames were trussed to the hilt. Stakes, wires, and cages kept every one upright, uptight, and totally in line. Meanwhile, back at the Casa, most of my garden was going commando.

Don't get too close! You could poke an eye out!

While that wasn't a problem for the plants whose wobbly bits were still quite small, one of my favorites needed some help. Blessed with the type of buxom beauty other perennials can only dream about, 'Blue Fortune' agastache needed something that would keep the girls perky and immune to the perils of gravity. It needed to be comfortable but attractive, with a bit of ooh la la that would reveal a touch of something special when her shoulders were almost bare. If she was going to end her free-wheeling naked days, she needed to look good doing it.

A custom made wrought iron plant support from Battle Hill Forge was added last winter to give the agastache a sturdy frame to help hold up the weight of her summer growth. It's hidden under all the foliage.

With the plant no longer leaning on the ground, I had enough room to add helenium 'Tie Dye'.

I placed these around the plants in the winter before the ground froze. Curly fiddle head finials give them a bit of flair. 

'Blue Fortune' agastache is one the top pollinator attracting plants in my garden. The beautiful blue blooms were past their peak in these photos but the bees weren't giving up. 

It's easily grown in full sun in slightly moist soil. 

$10 says she pops a seam when she stops holding her breath.

I'd pulled out a mountain of mist flowers before I took this picture. I found the asters in the middle.

But at the top of the Sunnyside bed, things had gotten totally out of hand. An invasion of blue mist flowers combined with a lack of pruning left my struggling 'Monch' asters overflowing their cups and spilling the goods onto the neighboring plants. The plant support I'd given them was the equivalent of a botanical bikini but they needed full support. The girls were floppy, bouncy, and in the way.

'Monch' asters are a bit floppy and need to be pruned by half in early summer. Ooops....

After cutting back the aster, I added another plant support from Battle Hill. The metal grid will help keep the asters from flopping but the open middle will allow them the lush looseness that I enjoy. If I don't need both grids, they're removable and can be used on other supports they've made. My garden's free-wheeling hippie days might be coming to an end for a few plants, but at least they're going out in style.

Welcome to the garden, darling!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Come As You Are

Sometimes the lighting is never right 

and the pictures will never show what you see everyday.

They will always be too dark, too light, or full of garden clutter.

But so what. Does it really matter?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just Five

Indie from Red House Garden recently blasted with me a bucket of blogger love, which includes the request to reveal something new about yourself. 

Something About Me You May Find Surprising:

I hate camping. Just the idea of sleeping on the ground in a tent makes my back hurt. My idea of camping includes a real mattress and indoor plumbing. Here are a few examples:

Yes, please!

Why, of course, I'll stay here!

However, I might be persuaded to change my mind.....

Quotes to Live By:

As a writer I love the combinations of brilliant words into something powerful and true but the quotes I refer to the most are my own.

"Life is short. Love big."

Death has come often to my family with few goodbyes or peaceful exits and the brutal murder of  a young cousin was life changing. When you're with someone who is amazing and makes you smile, reach out to them, hug them, express how you feel, and open your heart enough to let them know you mean every word. You may never get another chance.

"You can do this."

We are all capable of so much more than we realize. It's ok to be scared but it's not ok to just stop, too full of fear and self-doubt to move forward. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself, because you can do this! 

Which movie can you watch over and over?

I've lost track of how many times I've seen Bridget Jones Diary. I relate stunningly well to her willingness to say exactly what she feels and when I've had a rough day or just need to de-stress, Bridget and a glass of wine will always do the trick. Plus, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are rather easy on the eyes. ;o) 

My favorite garden memory:

When my daughter was one she discovered that when squeezed, ripe cherry tomatoes would squirt from her fingers leaving a delightful mess. She grabbed as many tomatoes off the vine as she could reach and ran around the garden squealing and laughing, covered in soil and red pulp. She was oblivious to everything but the pure sensation of joy. It was a great reminder not to take my garden so seriously.

My daughter, age 1 in 1996

My favorite blog posts:

Two of my favorite posts are about two of my favorite guys: my son and James Bond. The James Bond Garden Tour is a piece of pure female fantasy while Growing a Man is about my son's decision to join the Army instead of attending college. While James Bond only exists within the pages of a novel or on a movie screen, as a combat medic my son is a true hero.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Kiss: Gardening with Gustav

Have you ever seen a piece of art and imagined it as a garden? I am not a horticulturalist, garden designer or landscape architect. My only design experience comes from moving seventeen times in thirty four years and always having to cram my stuff into a new house and find a way to make it look appealing. But I am an art lover.

My garden curves around an elliptical lawn.

I recently returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary where I was able to finally see in person the art that inspires my garden. When my husband was given an offer to stay in the apartment of work colleague in Vienna, we cashed in some frequent flyer miles, packed our bags and headed for Austria. Exhausted from a long flight but determined to stay awake to adjust to a different time zone, we dropped our bags off and hopped the tram to the Belvedere. 

Most of the trams were sleek and modern, but we ended up on an older one a few times. They were old fashioned and quaint but still in excellent condition.

Vienna is a very clean, orderly city with clocks everywhere. I don't think they run on Tammytime. Even the plants were expected to conform and behave.

The Belvedere Gallery is home to Gustav Klimt's iconic painting, The Kiss and was in the midst of an extended Klimt exhibit. Seeing amazing art can be a physical, visceral experience. A huge square painting, I love the richness of the decorative abstraction, the sunniness of the gold leaf, and the focus on the couple. Although art critics have implied that The Kiss is a prelude to a more passionate ending, I don't see it that way at all. To me, it is simply a tender, blissful moment between two people in love, which is more powerful and enduring than anything accomplished while naked.

Gustav Klimt was a rebellious painter, determined to do everything his way. The woman in the painting is rumored to be his best friend and lover, Emilie Floge, a wise woman who refused to marry him but endured his tendency to bed his models, fathering over 14 children.

I thought the windows peeking out from the roof 
on this house in Budapest looked like eyes.

While this may look like a set from a Disney movie, it's known as the Fisherman's Bastion and offers incredible views of Budapest.

Like the embrace in the painting, my garden is a hug, the edges pulling inward to envelop those in the center. It is a soft place, calm and cheerful. I have been told it isn't edgy enough, spiky enough, or tropical enough. But my garden is exactly enough of what I need. My garden is my art, a steady embrace that pulls me in and keeps me centered. It is the novel I will never write and the plants quirkier than any character I could imagine. It is the painting and sculpture I have no ability to create. It is my own kiss.

I thought the Japanese beetles would devour my roses while I was gone, but a few Abraham Darby roses bloomed unnoticed and I found this beauty in the garden waiting for me.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Little Bit of Magic

I want a magic wand. It doesn't have to be big or fancy just magical. I want to be able to zap my dry shade into something moist and rich.

But I don't think it's going to happen. Perhaps instead of moaning about what I don't have I need to find the beauty in what I do have.

Native ruellia humilis, also known as wild petunia, pops up all over my garden and is just as happy in bright, dry shade as it is in sun. 

Native monarda punctata is my new favorite plant. Even though the flowers are beige, which is weird and boring, the plant just glows in bright shade. Soaker hoses keep this bed from turning into the Sahara.

These flowers remind me of pineapples. The pollinators love them.

Calamintha, another lover of dry soil, grows at the front of the border.

Another southeastern native, scutellaria incana, commonly known as hoary skullcap, which sounds either very naughty or slightly deadly, thrives in dry shade as long as you provide extra water during dry spells. It's another dry shade plant that attracts pollinators.

The flowers look like funky hats.

Northern sea oats and coleus

Northern sea oats thrive in dry soils with bright shade, which describes about seventy five percent of my garden.

Variegated beautyberry, callicarpa 'Duet', keeps my shade garden from looking like a black hole. It's one of the few shrubs that grows well in dry shade. A container with a variegated pennisetum 'Fireworks' gives this spot some extra zing.

'Millenium' alliums love dry, bright partial shade. The pollinators have been nuts for them and they bloom for weeks. Perhaps I have more magic in my garden than I realize. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Honesty of Annuals

Seed grown orange gomphrena (globe amaranth) lights up the Sunnyside Garden.

Shut the door and close the curtain. I have to confess. I used to be a plant snob.

Orange and white gomphrena filled a gap left by the gaura that rotted.

I was convinced the only plants worthy of my garden were perennials. I stuffed my pots with annuals but had excluded them from my garden beds.

Cheap pink caladiums mingle with the 'Great Expectations' hosta that has yet to live up to it's name.

I was tempted, seduced by the permanence of perennials. They promised to be there when I needed them but they lie. They'll say anything to get a gardener to take them home.

I love these caladiums so much, I'm going to lift the bulbs and overwinter them.

But I've come to appreciate the honesty of an annual. When the going gets rough, they fall down and die and don't pretend they won't. It's a brief affair with no commitment necessary.

Coleus and Swedish Ivy (plectranthus) filled a spot in my shade garden left by the expensive variegated columbine that died. Again.

But maybe this is a good thing. Every summer you can pick a new love and start all over.

Annual lysimachia and New Guinea impatiens

'Persian Carpet' zinnias in one of my pots. Zinnias also grow in the garden beds.

A view into part of the shade garden featuring several annuals used to fill in gaps left by lily-livered, no-good, lying, yeah, baby, you're the best perennials.