Friday, June 27, 2008


Decided to take a break from roses for a while and talk about something else near and dear to my heart.

The photo is from Burpee's website featuring their catalog covers over the years. Their hand painted pictures are beautiful. Makes you want to run out and order a couple packs right now;)

This morning before leaving for work I stopped to check my tomatoes. They are just not doing well this year. Late frosts and heavy rains delayed planting this spring. The entire month of May and the first half of June were unseasonably cool. The tomatoes grew very little. Now, almost the first of July, it's finally getting hot and humid and they are just starting to put on growth.

This year I planted two each of Cherokee Purple (my favorite), Black Krim, Brandywine, and Sweet Million, and one each of Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Girl, and Beefsteak. If you have never tried Cherokee Purple or Black Krim you are missing a great tomato experience:)

I love to have friends over and serve a variety of tomatoes, fresh baked bread, and maybe some cheeses. It's fun to compare the different flavors of the heirloom tomatoes. We have tomato taste tests at work. We try the different heirlooms and hybrids and pick our favorites. I'd love to hear from tomato lovers. What's your favorite tomato? Have you had success or failures with the heirloom varieties?

There are some great stories to go along with some of the old heirlooms. One story goes like this: Radiator repairman Charley Byles (who knew nothing about tomatoes) managed to cross several varieties and create an outstanding plant. Radiator Charlie sold the first seedlings of his new tomato in the 1940's for one dollar each to customers who drove up to 200 miles for his famous plants that bore tasty tomatoes averaging two and a half pounds. With these sales, Charlie managed to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in only six years, and so the tomato was named Mortgage Lifter.

If you garden in a cold zone like mine, you know that the tomato season is very short. This year it looks like it will be a whole lot shorter. Very depressing.

Everybody have a great weekend!

"What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." -- Emerson

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Parade of Roses

I went through a period of obsession with roses and collected quite a few. I love the bloom, the fragrance and the romance. It started with some antique roses. Next several of the Canadian roses and rugosas hybrids were added. Then came hybrid teas. When the English roses were developed, I had to have several of them too.

Roses are a lot more work than many perennials. It's difficult to grow them well without chemicals. You have to really love them to spend the extra time involved in caring for them.

This post is for my old garden roses. Most of these roses bloom a little earlier than my hybrid teas. They are also tougher. Not so disease prone.

First my favorite Paul Neyron is an old hybrid perpetual. This rose produces huge blooms 6 or 7 inches across. A fat pink cabbage of a rose with lovely fragrance and a thorn free bush. Paul blooms off and on all summer. He can be a little temperamental, but I'm happy to give him whatever he wants .

Grus an Aachen is small. Both the bush and blooms are petite. A very pretty little rose for the front of the garden. Grus is another repeat bloomer with a nice fragrance.

This is an old once blooming rose whose name I've forgotten. Lovely fragrance pretty cup shaped blooms.

Another of Grus an Aachen. Early in the season it has more pink. Later the blooms fade to almost white.

Reines de Violettes (Queen of Violets) another hybrid perpetual that repeats through the summer. Flowers not as large as Paul Neyron, but there are many more blooms per bush.
Nice fragrance, no thorns.

Thanks for looking at my rose parade. Hybrid tea photos coming in a few days.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Parade of Roses

Leading the parade we have the antique Rose de Rescht

Next the lovely French rose Peace with it's message of world peace and hope.

Double Delight very nearly perect.

A beautiful Buck rose Honeysweet.

Saving the best for last, my favorite Buck rose Golden Unicorn.

More rose parade coming soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Simple Pleasures

A sunny window
A soft quilt

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breathing in the frangrance of perfect

Breathing in the fragrance of perfect.

Last night I woke to a lovely fragrance filling the bedroom. The Japanese Tree Lilac outside my window was in full bloom and the damp night air carried the wonderful scent into the house. A scent completely unlike the common lilac, but very pleasant, sweet and smoky.

I can't imagine why Syringa reticulata is such and underused tree. Smallish, very well behaved and manageable. The flowers are a delight. Big, billowy puffs of creamy white. Far showier than its cousin the common purple lilac.

My mistake was planting a white blooming tree in front of a white house. Still, I'm not sorry when the wonderful fragrance drifts into my room and wakes me. (When the purple lilacs bloom it is far too chilly to have windows open at night.)

I lay there in bed last night and thought about planting one outside every window;~) .
(Thank you Joshua Pilger for the phrase I used as a title.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Country Things

Moss on the roof, vines covering the wooden siding. The only creatures using the old barn are swallows. The windows are gone. Old harness hangs on a peg, left long ago when the horse teams were replaced by a tractor.

One of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

The Need Of Being Versed In Country Things

THE house had gone to bring again
To the midnight sky a sunset glow.
Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,
Like a pistil after the petals go

The barn opposed across the way,
That would have joined the house in flame
Had it been the will of the wind, was left
To bear forsaken the place's name.

No more it opened with all one end
For teams that came by the stony road
To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs
And brush the mow with the summer load.

The birds that came to it through the air
At broken windows flew out and in,
Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
From too much dwelling on what has been.

Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,
And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm;
And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe the phoebes wept

Friday, June 13, 2008

Advise from Julie Andrews

Remember in Sound of Music when the thunderstorm was crashing around the castle and everyone was singing My Favorite Things? I love that movie. Anyway, last night as the thunderstorms crashed around my not-a-castle, I was processing photos (I know, dumb to be using the computer in a storm). I had taken several photos of roses covered in rain from an earlier storm so that song just popped into my head and would not stop.

Photos of Distant Drums (my second favorite Dr. Griffith Buck rose) and Toby.

Raindrops on roses...

...and whiskers on kittens.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Seeing things through new eyes

As I've gotten more interested in photography, I find myself seeing things differently, or maybe more clearly. I've always appreciated the beauty of a sunset, the intricate patterns of clouds, and the changing light at dusk and dawn. Now I spend more time studying these things. Composing photographs in my mind even if the camera isn't there. I notice tiny drops of dew on delicate flower petals. Mentally I wonder how best to capture the prisms of reflected light. I look at things from different angles viewing the changes in shadows and light and deciding which will give the best contrast. Reflections in pools of water have become treasures to be marveled at.

I'm always looking up. Looking for colors and shapes. Seeking beams of light shining like spotlights through clouds.

(Photos: The sun sets at the end of my road as I arrive home from work. Ominous clouds roil above the pasture.)

No matter what a realist I consider myself, it’s hard not to let the mind wander to fae things when I see a lovely stand of foxglove.

Foxgloves are deeply steeped in folk lore. Some say the origin of the name is folks gloves (folks referring to faeries or magical creatures). Nordic legend has the faeries teaching the fox to ring the fox bells as a warning when hunters approach.

To cut or damage them is to bring bad luck, but to plant them around the door yard will keep the faeries from stealing your children.

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scare could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Give us pleasure in the flowers to-day

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

...Robert Frost

Above Shirley Temple peony.

Left unknown silvery-blue clematis.

Below Goldfinch on a thistle sock.

Tiny splashes of sunlight flying about the garden.

They seem to prefer this sock to any other of the thistle feeders I've tried.


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart as the sun rises.

(I love that line from Mary Oliver's poem--more below.)

This week the peonies finally make their long awaited appearance. They usually bloom about two weeks earlier just after Memorial Day.

They are so very welcome whenever they choose to bloom.

Last year I added two Shirley Temples to my collection. Most are older varieties. They were planted on the farm before I moved here.
I love the huge doubles, the ones packed with so many petals you can't find the centers. The ones that smell so cloyingly sweet they scent a room when you bring them inside.

The heavy rain and high winds were wreaking so much havoc on the blooms, I cut most of them to enjoy inside. My house is full and so is the office.

Festiva Maxima above white with the red highlights is one of my all time favorites. The dark pink is an old unknown variety. The white below is probably Festiva also.

This fall perhaps I'll research some early bloomers and add them. It would be nice to extend the season a little longer.

I added this yellow iris to mix in some color. I'm not sure of the cultivar, maybe Pure and Simple. It's a stunner with the sun-bright yellow and the graceful ruffles.

Peonies by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open ---
pools of lace,
white and pink ---
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

Friday, June 6, 2008

What's blooming today and a really good book

Hopefully today's blooms will still be standing after last night's storms. It never fails, when the peonies and iris bloom, we always get rain, hail and high winds. Those huge, heavy flowers fill up with water and topple over onto the mud.

I've had this yellow iris for years. One of my favorites.

Below: A photo from some time ago. These tough little columbines will grow anywhere. They have such a delicate bloom but they are tough, drought tolerant very cold hardy.

Here are a few iris that survived the rain and wind.

A lucky accident that the iris just happen to blend so well with the chives.

This weekend I'm rereading Virginia Lanier's first book Death in Bloodhound Red. If you are a mystery reader and/or a dog lover, you will want to read this wonderful series. Lanier's character, Jo Beth Sidden, is a professional dog trainer who contracts with local law enforcement to search out people lost in the near by Okefenokee Swamp. Her search and rescue missions are usually harrowing. Avoiding quicksand, poisonous snakes, and her murderous ex-husband Bubba are among the challenges she and her dogs face. You will also learn a lot you never knew about tracking with dogs. Sadly, Virginia Lanier passed away a few years ago so her novels are all the more precious because there will never be any more.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's interesting in the garden today

On these damp, still evenings my yard is filled with the scent of pagoda dogwood. Not quite like lilac but a similar sweet, heavy fragrance.

No peonies yet but the buds are swelling and showing some color.

The salvia is looking good. I have several hybirds, this one is May Night. It's a great plant, blooms all summer and drought tolerant. The dead heading is what I don't like. Tedious. If it's not deadheaded it won't continue to flower so all summer I'm snipping the spires.

This photo shows two viburnam planted side by side with flowering branches entertwined. Unusual because they don't always bloom at the same time. This season bloom times are behind schedule because of the cold temperatures in April and May.

This is supposed to be TB Iris Gnus Flash. It isn't even close. Mislabeled packaging. Up close it isn't my favorite--washed out colors and contrasts. Seen from across the lawn it's more appealing. A splash of interesting color in front of the black iris Superstition. Last evenings rain and wind knocked Superstition completely to the ground. That's the downside of the really tall varieties.

My yellow iris is just starting to bloom. It's a great color so I'll put some photos on soon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Left is my wilding pal Toby.

According to some interesting books I’ve been reading, many of the common weeds found in my yard have more nutrition than the vegetables you buy. For example dandelions are a great dietary source of calcium, vitamins A, and K, plus the antioxidant lutein.

Purslane happens to have more Omega-3 fatty acid than any other plant plus lots of vitamin C and other stuff.

Early settlers and Indians made use of wild edibles in season and dried them for winter use. In the past 60 years or so, we have stopped harvesting wild greens. Now we rely on things we buy. You’re probably thinking, who wants to eat something growing in the lawn? I look at it this way. Unless I put herbicides or fertilizers on the lawn, these greens should be safer than fruits and vegetables imported from who knows what foreign places with who knows what standards of hygiene. Plus, I know fruit and vegetable farmers put every known pesticide available on their crops.

Anyway, since I have more dandelions and various weeds than grass, why not turn that to my advantage.

There are a lot of books and internet sites with lots of recipes. I decided not to follow any of the recipes but to just use weeds in the foods I already prepare. First I threw a big handful of mixed weeds into a vat of homemade vegetable soup. No difference in the taste, but it felt good knowing the extra nutrients were in there.

I made up a salad with my garden lettuce plus garlic mustard, lambs quarters, and purslane. Added some feta cheese, dried cranberries, pecan pieces, baked chicken pieces and raspberry vinaigrette. I have to admit, I couldn’t taste the wild stuff but that was OK because the vitamins, minerals and omega 3 where there.

I plan to try adding some to meatloaf, soups, vegetables, omelets, and salads. Using them on sandwiches and hamburgers instead of or with lettuce. Throwing some in cake mixes or pancake batter. I might toss some in with the apples or rhubarb in a pie. I don’t think you’d notice a taste, but the foods would be just a little better for you.

Sunday evening I went wilding. Picked, rinsed and stored my stuff in the fridge for later meals. I picked a bunch of wild mint too. Rinsed it and added it to the water in ice cube trays. It will be good in iced tea and lemonade.

I'd love to hear about your wilding experience and stories. A lot of people in my area love hunting morels and wild asparagus. I'm a little afraid of the mushrooms but hope to go out with some experienced friends and learn which ones are safe and which are not.

While doing some reading on harvesting wild plants, I remembered a wonderful novel I read a long time ago. Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver. Think I'll look for my old copy and reread it.

Important: I have to say this to anyone who might try wilding. Don’t eat anything unless you are sure it’s safe. Check out books and internet sites with photos and descriptions of edible plants. Be sure no one has sprayed chemicals on the greens you pick.