Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

What have you in bloom?

March 11, 2014 @ 5:23 pm | Filed under: ,

aprilgarden

As soon as spring is in the air Mr. Krippendorf and I begin an antiphonal chorus, like two frogs in neighboring ponds: What have you in bloom, I ask, and he answers from Ohio that there are hellebores in the woods, and crocuses and snowdrops and winter aconite. Then I tell him that in North Carolina the early daffodils are out but that the aconites are gone and the crocuses past their best..”

—Elizabeth Lawrence, The Little Bulbs

The photo is not of my garden; this lovely sight of a neighbor’s front yard left me breathless last April. I haven’t been down that street lately to see what may be in bloom, but the daisies and poppies are coming up in other yards around town. My own poppies are all leaf, not quite ready to set buds yet. But soon. And some of these small daisies have popped up quite unexpectedly in a large planter by my front steps, along with some adorable johnny-jumpups. Either they jumped up indeed, right into the pot, or it’s possible Rilla planted some seeds…she’s always finding an old half-full packet in a drawer somewhere (why do I only ever plant half the seeds in a packet?) and taking it upon herself to do a bit of Mary Lennoxing. Today it was freesia seeds, inherited from a friend, and some sweet peas and sweet william. I grow freesia from bulbs, not seed, so I’m eager to see if these come up. It’s turning wonderland out there, already…the lavender has gone supersized this year, the bees are quite drunk.

It’s the season when I have no choice, I must read gardening books. The Little Bulbs is mandatory at this time of year, when the freesia are tumbling everywhere. I could live on the scent of freesia. This bit to Miss Lawrence from her horticultural pen-pal, Mr. Krippendorf, one February day, made me laugh:

“I was surprised to hear of the paucity of bloom in your garden, as I once read a book by an Elizabeth Lawrence who listed quantities of plants that bloomed in February or even January in her garden (which she alleged was in Raleigh, North Carolina). We have quite a few snowdrops now, and some eranthis, in spite of the fact that the pool on the terrace freezes every night.” And later: “I have your letter dated Fourth Sunday in Lent but not mailed until Tuesday. You say you might as well have lived in Ohio this winter—that sounds almost scornful. Yesterday was a wonderful day, not too warm, and sunshine off and on. I have tens of thousands of winter aconites in the woods—bold groups repeating themselves into the distance, also the spring snowflakes, and Adonis amurensis.”

All this sudden color is the result of the few days of rain we had the other week, after a crispy, crackling, waterless winter. And I know so many of you in other parts of the U.S. have had a really dreadful time of it these past few months. I wouldn’t dare to ask Miss Lawrence’s question, above, but I’m starting to see hints on Facebook and Twitter of a crocus here, a narcissus there, and Mr. Krippendorf’s tens of thousands of winter aconites gave me courage.

***

Read today:

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (ahhh, deep delight)
Grace for President
Here Comes Destructosaurus (coming out soon, quite funny, wonderful Jeremy Tankard art)

Finished Where Angels Fear to Tread. Forster is tearing me up, lately. I had to read Howards End because of the Susan Hill book, and it wrung me inside out, and Angels hung me out to dry. In a good way, you understand.

My work here is done

December 1, 2013 @ 10:41 am | Filed under: ,

Me: I need to buy some seeds to fill in the places where the drought killed everything off.

Scott: Done!

Me: I mean, I’m going to need a LOT of seeds.

Scott: Dude. Like you have tell me that. I haven’t read Miss Rumphius 7,685 times for nothing.

Garden Notes, Mid-March

March 15, 2013 @ 8:09 pm | Filed under:
Narcissus by Nishimura Hodo

Narcissus by Nishimura Hodo, c. 1930

Our daffodils are mostly finished; now comes the freesia time. Oh, they smell heavenly. And the pink jasmine has opened its stars all over the garden wall.

The butterfly garden is rebounding, now that the neighbor’s pepper trees have been hacked back to stubs. The tiny lilac and the young manzanita bush are in bloom, and the tree mallow is all pink blossoms and bees. The nasturtiums have sprung up from last year’s seeds, but the flowers seldom last long: Rilla and Huck keep eating them all.

I planted dahlias last fall, a gift from a close friend, but they haven’t yet made an appearance aboveground. Oh, but there’s a lone iris, slender leaves, rich purple-blue flower, that streak of gold down the middle. I carried irises in my wedding bouquet, so they always make me think of us.

The milkweed is just beginning to open, and all the roadsides are thick with gazanias and grape-soda lupine. Our crows are building a nest in the schoolyard fig tree just beyond our back fence. When I water the lettuces, tiny alligator lizards dart out from under the spray, indignant every time. They run up the wall and freeze in plain sight.

The front-yard tulips, those crazy gold-and-scarlet marvels, are about to drop their petals. Last week they were stunners, turning the head of every passerby. This week they’re haggard and overbright, still commanding attention in their garish decline, the Norma Desmonds of the garden.

 

Late November

November 28, 2012 @ 5:49 pm | Filed under: ,

Our roses are blooming, and a big clump of daffodils is coming up right under one of the rosebushes. Tricksy plants, growing all the time. The freesia and rain lilies we planted are well up now (but weeks from blooming), and the nasturtium and cosmos seeds are coming in nicely. One plump grapefruit ripening on the tree. Just the one.

The neighborhood parrots visited the other day. They travel in a raucous swirl of green and chaos. I tried to get pictures, but they hid in the trees and then swirled up and away faster than I could focus. Which is a pretty apt metaphor for my life, these days. Bright, noisy, swirling past in a blur.

There’s a parrot there somewhere; can you see it? Blink and it’s gone.

Late-October Garden Notes

October 28, 2012 @ 1:27 pm | Filed under:

Trying to work this afternoon, but it’s hard not to stay glued to the hurricane feeds. Hope you weather it well, all my East Coast friends…

Rilla and I did a lot of garden work this week: cleared bermuda grass out of the butterfly garden, planted some freesia bulbs I’d forgotten about. We have our sunflower seeds ready to sow, maybe this evening. Oh, and it’s pansy weather…almost. Midday sun still a bit harsh.

Time to start thinking of sowing our winter greens. The seasons are upside-down here; six years and I’m still not used to it.

In bloom: Mexican bush sage (salvia leucantha), cleome (one last floweret left), geraniums (always), gazania, red salvia, blue plumbago, lantana, milkweed, lavender, and chrysanthemums—pink and white. Oh, and the cape honeysuckle, beloved of hummingbirds. And sweet alyssum everywhere.

The nasturtiums are starting to reappear: leaves only, no buds yet, but they move fast.

Lots of roses around the neighborhood; a single giant flower on ours.

Something is eating up the lamb’s-ear.

Our big nature sighting of the week was a gulf fritillary caterpillar on the passionflower vine! We had to rush off to dance class, though, and he was gone when we returned. Big guy, probably pupating by now.

Alarming photos starting to roll in from New Jersey. Stay safe, friends…

The shady part of the day

September 27, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Filed under: ,

Rilla knows we don’t water the plants when the sun is shining full on them. Shortly after I began work this afternoon, a note came sliding under my door:

IT IS THE SADE PORT AF THE DAY

As I was deciphering it (yellow crayon on white paper: tricky), a second note whooshed in:

SO SH I WODR MY PLANS

There was a new watering can awaiting her, you see. (Hot pink, of course, as everything must be, including draneyoms.) I opened the door, found her bouncing (because that is how one waits). Yes, you should water your plants now, and mine too, if you wouldn’t mind.

She didn’t mind. 🙂

Thursday Things

September 27, 2012 @ 9:10 am | Filed under: , ,

First up: Into the Thicklebit | Overheard.

Next thing: We’re talking books in the comments of this postKristin Lavransdatter and Papa’s Wife. Got other Scandinavian favorites?

Next thing, for San Diego locals: My signing’s on Saturday! Yellow Book Road @ beautiful Liberty Station in Point Loma, 3pm. Come! Say hi! Eat cookies! Listen to me attempt a Scottish accent! (Serves me right for writing characters in dialect.)

Book reviews & interviews.

Other shareworthy links in my sidebar.

***

We have an excursion to City Farmers Nursery planned for this afternoon. Rilla is planting her own butterfly garden. (The one that spans the width of our backyard isn’t enough for her, evidently.) 😉 She’s making a list. Excuse me, I mean a LEIST. So far, she’s got:

1. MiLKWED

2. HOT PENK DRANEYOM (hot pink geranium)

I can’t wait to see what’s next. 🙂

If it’s May, it must be time for me to make redundant statements about agapanthus.

May 15, 2012 @ 7:25 pm | Filed under: , ,

The Lilies-of-the-Nile are being impish again. I was going to remark that as much as I adore their purple spheres of bloom, this bud stage is when I love them best—but I see I already said that, a year ago. I really am repeating myself; I see too that I posted an agapanthus bud exactly one year ago today. Impish they may be, but they are punctual little fellows!

“Ruins, romance, and rustic seats…”

April 16, 2012 @ 4:16 pm | Filed under: ,

My Two Gardeners rabbit trail has taken a delicious turn down a literary lane…

Nov. 1960. Katharine White to Elizabeth Lawrence, regarding Katharine’s latest “Onward and Upward in the Garden Column” in the New Yorker:

 Then another thing I did wrong, apparently, was to give the impression by my wording on Gertrude Jekyll that England had never had naturalized plantings until Robinson and Jekyll came along. Of course it had, and I knew it. I’m not learned enough to know where the craze for bedding out and for copying formal European gardens started but I remembered a passage in Mansfield Park where all the Bertrams and the Crawfords and poor Fanny Price went to spend the day at Mr. Rushworth’s estate to consider how to remake his landscaping and gardens, and Fanny mourned because Henry Crawford recommended cutting down an avenue of old trees. This made me wonder whether it was not between 1800 and 1820 that this all started. Jane Austen commenced this novel in 1811 and it was published in 1814. Do you, with your real learning, know about this? I would love to use the reference to Mansfield Park (and some others in the Austen novels) in a later piece if by any chance my hunch is right that Jane was satirizing a new fad in gardens…

Elizabeth replies:

I’ll lend you an article I have on Repton and Jane Austen, and I think it will answer all your questions….

The “naturalistic movement” came at the end of the the seventeenth century with the Earl of Shaftesbury, Addison and Pope. but it wasn’t very natural, I gather: ruins, romance and rustic seats.

[An aside. Later in the letter, Elizabeth adds a word of comfort for her meticulous friend’s consternation over slight inaccuracies in the New Yorker piece:

I gruel over things as you do, but I learn more by making mistakes than any other way. Even with the greatest care I find errors creep in, and when I learn better I write and correct what I’ve said before. But I try not to let it bother me. Everyone makes mistakes, but the really despicable people are those who protect themselves by never making a definite statement.

Emphasis mine. Oh how I love her!]

Two Gardeners editor Emily Herring Wilson helpfully includes a footnote to let us know that the article on Repton and Jane Austen was a piece by Elsa Rehmann called “Jane Austen and the English Landscape School,” published in Landscape Architecture in 1935. Katharine sends Elizabeth her thanks and expresses a hope to borrow the article until she has a chance to write her next column.

I admit I was crestfallen to find that Jane Austen had been so thoroughly explored, but I also think the author of that piece and even Jane’s famous editor, Chapman, didn’t quite see that the novelist was satirizing a current fad, in somewhat the same way, except more mildly, that she poked fun at the gothic novel. That least that is my theory, probably false…

This sent me looking for a passage I thought was in Sense and Sensibility, in which the odious Fanny Dashwood points out a grove of old trees and casually mentions her plans to have them pulled down and replaced with a Grecian temple. I couldn’t find it on a quick flip-through, though. Perhaps I am only remembering the film? Now that I think about it, I wonder if Emma Thompson borrowed that bit from the Mansfield Park scene Mrs. White describes above.

Well! Look what the Google turned up! I wanted to make sure I was remembering correctly that Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for S&S. Turns out the entire screenplay is online as a pdf. But with permission? I can’t tell. (A search for “temple” turned up the scene I was remembering—almost word for word!)

Oh, these crazy interwebs.

(Quotes from: Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, edited by Emily Herring Wilson, Beacon Press, 2002.)

Related:
Two Gardeners: A Rabbit Trail
“I have had to give up writing to my close friends”
“In the last decade our fiction writers use only ‘I’…”
Before the Internet