Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tiny Little Thought

Some mornings just taste and feel like Canada. This is one of them... at least at 5:30 AM.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spontaneous Combustion

Sometimes words just pop into my head when I see something.... sort of like spontaneous combustion. Two little dust motes rub up against each other and -BAM! You have a full blown conflagration. Or in my case, you have a full blown thought.

We have been having some hellacious thunderstorms this past week and I have heard some of the lightning bolts land uncomfortably near. I walk past this place everyday with my dog, Henry. Almost nothing ever changes-or certainly not this dramatically. This large tree had clearly been struck and was obliterated.

The word that popped into my head was "Cleave." I would like to say I don't know why, but isn't it obvious? It is as if this tree was split with a knife. You can see the trail of the bolt down the whole trunk. The bark was blown off and the top of this tree was gone.

Nature never ceases to amaze me. It can be so subtle.... consider evolution or the variety of flora and fauna. Then it can be wickedly brutal and fast.... like the tornado that came through NH yesterday or this lightning strike.

It gives you pause to think.

Back To Our Regular Scheduled Programming

Well... it is still raining here in NH so I haven't been working in the garden much. So I present Daylilies on Parade! A little best of what is blooming in the garden right now.

These spidery yellow ones are really quite dramatic in their height- almost as tall as me. They look especially good with that spruce in the background.

I think I have identified these white ones as "Kazoo." Not very dignified, but they are my favorites just the same.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect... Or Putting My Best Self Forward

This is a picture of me and most of my siblings. My oldest sister is missing because she lives in New Mexico now. It was taken this past Mother's Day as I teach my much more tech-savvy siblings how to blog. What better image to illustrate what I am going to talk about.

I baked those cookies last night to take to a client, Maureen. I ran into her in the grocery store two days ago. I asked how she was. Fine, I asked how her mother was. Dying. She broke down in front of the deli counter and told me her mother was in her last days. She was buying cold cuts because her two brothers and family were flying in from around the country to say goodbye. I asked because her mother was not only a client, but also someone I thought was a lovely and interesting woman. I knew she had moved here to be closer to some of her family in her retirement.

I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had hugged Maureen even though human contact and empathy are not my forte. I wanted to do something more. It popped into my head that I should bake cookies. She is still alive, but not for much longer. Are cookies too festive? It is tradition to bring food to the home of someone who has died to help the family deal with the onslaught of visitors. She hasn't died- is this wrong? Do I put a card on top of the plate of cookies and just leave it at the door? Too cowardly. This is an exchange that requires talking. So awkward. I thought what I would want and I realized how thankful I would feel for anyone showing up at my door. I pushed myself to complete what I had thought to do.

I baked the cookies and then on the drive to work I thought of a million reasons that I couldn't drop them off at her house. I had never been there so I drove past a few times trying to find it. I drove up the long driveway. Only two cars in the driveway. Rang the bell. Long wait. And there she was- she burst into tears again. She told me "You are amazing." "I came back from the grocery and told my husband that I saw you. Tried to keep it light, but you asked about my mother. I had to tell you and it was like someone had sent you to ask me that question." I assured her that it was an answer that required practice- saying someone has died or is dying. I was just a good person to practice on. "I couldn't wait to get home and tell my Mother that you had asked about her." And again she said "you are amazing."

I don't repeat that bit about "amazing" so that everyone will know I am amazing, but so that everyone understands the sort of response you might get from following through on a very tiny act of kindness to another. I feel good for having done it. And I resolve to try to do it again.

When my own husband died I had a group of friends who gathered around me (along with my family) to make sure I didn't completely fall apart. My friend, Louise, moved in with me so I didn't have to fall asleep alone for the first three weeks. She fed me and listened to me cry myself to sleep while she slept on the most uncomfortable couch in the world. My friend, Michelle, took my dog into her home in such an unassuming way that I didn't notice Lady was gone. I couldn't care for myself, much less my dog. My friend, Annie, sat Shiva, which I don't think I ever would have understood without her. I am not too Jewish. Even my brother-in-law, Andy, who silently served cosmopolitans to a bunch of us one evening... dropping a new cherry in each fresh new glass so we could keep track of how much we imbibed. Some of us ate the cherries though. People do that for each other.

Loss is a part of living. Sometimes it feels too close though- my two little sisters, pictured above, have battled cancer -breast & retinal melanoma. My mother is a great-grandmother. I worry about losing anyone else, but I know I am surrounded by amazing people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baking Gluten Free Cookies

I decided to bake some of my extra good gluten- free peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies. They are extremely easy and very satisfying considering they have no flour in them. (peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda, salt, peanuts & chocolate chips- that's it!) Another gluten- free girl double checked with me to make sure they had no flour because they are sooooooo good.

Here they are in the baking pan.... which suffered a little damage during my last cookie baking party with 5 small girls. These double walled cookie pans are actually pretty terrible. They do keep cookies from burning but water sneaks in between the walls during washing and then sits there to rust and leak inside of your cabinets.

Here is the cookie baking operation- pretty seamless- eh? You would think I did this for a living.

And ..... here are the finished products- minus a few. I can't resist them when they are hot. Besides I had to counteract that green smoothie I drank the other day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Friend, Louise's Garden

I am spending my evenings at my friend, Louise's house while I am exhibiting at the Lakeside Living Expo up the road. I have not been to her house in over a year so it has been a nice opportunity to hang out with her and take a look at her garden which she has been working on so diligently. We wandered around the yard in our pajamas this morning, drinking coffee. Here she is with her senior kitty, Sid.

She has two monster mulleins growing in her gardens. This is the uber- mullein .... 6 separate spikes and a basal rosette the size of the Chrysler Building.

This is a lively little oriental lily hiding amidst her monster rue which is about to blossom. I think Louise only grows monster plants.

She bought the cute little ferny marigolds like I did but hers have benefited from some shade. Aren't they adorable?

Here I am next to my Element, in my pajamas and the monster mullein in the foreground. Who knew that a car could serve as such a wonderful color foil?

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Day In The Life of My Garden- July 17,2008

I had to leave early this morning as I am an exhibitor at an expo for three days. You can read about that at my gallery blog. My garden is looking mighty fine at 6 AM this morning, if a little grey and misty. My smokebush looks frosty with its purple blooms covered in dew.

This is a long shot towards my (neglected) front yard, driveway and the road into town.

No matter what you do, those pernicious little black eyed susans pop up everywhere, but it is hard to stay mad at them as they are so perky and bright.

The clematis blossoms are turning into seed heads which I think are almost as attractive as the blooms.

I have way too many daylilies, but this one is my favorite. It only has a few blossoms open right now, but I am afraid that with the horrific heat this weekend I will come home to find all the blossoms gone. It is the most beautiful creamy yellow-white and when all the blossoms are open it is like a beacon in the garden.

The blossoms of these daylilies aren't quite open but this is one of my favorite combinations - the lime green of the hosta and the bright orange.

Here is le boyfriend's grapes. They are growing up the chain link surrounding our compost operation. I think the previous owners kept their dogs in their, but it isn't good enough for my Henry. It is good for keeping the critters out of the compost.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Your Heart's Desire

I went to my friend, Michelle's house yesterday to do a quick garden consultation. For whatever reason she thinks I am good at gardening and wanted my opinion. I don't think I am great at it, but I do think I am very interested in it, talk a lot about it and have boundless (almost) energy for it. There is a big difference between those qualities and being good at something.

Well, we started by her feeding me a green smoothie- part of her new raw diet regime. It sounds and looks disgusting- spinach, lettuce, banana, frozen blueberries, water and whatever else is haunting the back of your refrigerator put through a blender. It looked like algae sludge but tasted reasonably good for something that is suppose to be healthful. Perhaps it is what put a little zip (read manic energy) into my garden consultation.

I started by asking Michelle what her concept is for her garden ... lest I simply overlay my tastes onto her collection. She replied that she wanted a garden that I would think is good. Ack! How did I scare a budding gardener into shame and inferiority? I must admit I am a little free with my opinions and I can be a bit of a commanding presence (quite tall and VERY stubborn), but I thought I had always done my best to foster curiosity and passion about gardening- not dread!

So for those of you out there who have suffered at the hands of a gardening know it all- perhaps even my hands.... the immortal wisdom of Henry Mitchell (again.).... "It is more important for the gardener to be enchanted than for critics to be pleased. Your garden will reveal your self. Do not be terrified of that. You have as much right to live as..... well, at least one may always say 'nevertheless, here I am.' "

Michelle's garden was actually a pretty good reflection of herself. It is abundant, even overflowing, one good thing on top of another, color, anarchy and fun. I don't think there is a plant that she has ever said "no" to. It is charming, unique and embodies the dream of a Maine Cottage that she hangs on to in the middle of a big city housing development.

BTW- these are pictures of my garden because I was too busy standing around in my South American General's cape, cracking my whip and telling Michelle what to do while I was at her garden. Perhaps she can post some photos of our little tidying up day at Jardin Johnson.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Note To Self

Earlier this spring I decided to experiment with this Hydrangea by trimming out a lot of the dead wood. I hadn't done it the previous two summers and it still looked good, but I am incapable of leaving well enough alone.

So I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed until the poor dear look like it had gotten the proverbial $2 haircut from a friend, Ruben's, great-Aunt Gertie. But it is in a section of my garden I call the neglected garden, because, well .... I neglect it. I figured I would just ignore the horror I had created along with everything else that surrounded it.

But two months later the Hydrangea looks like it has every summer- full, green and loaded with blossoms. So- note to self- go to town next year with the Felcos and just give it a real shear. Perhaps it will look great?!?

This is my patented Japanese Beetle Killer. Hellman's bought me out and is now manufacturing them- as a sideline to their condiment business.

When I am feeling a bit lazy I like to hunt Japanese Beetles because it makes me feel like I am doing something useful- without expending TOO much energy. I love to put my hand over the beetles and watch them drop into the trap. Sometimes they fight a little and I actually have to pick them off and throw them to their doom. It is oddly satisfying to watch their carcasses accumulate in the jar. Each one dead is a beetle not out there reproducing.

I leave the jar in the garden so any time I wander out there I can pick it up and pick off a few more. After a week or two it gets so full that I am afraid they will be able to crawl out, so I empty it in a conspicuous place as a testament to my beetle killing abilities.

I suppose this makes me a serial killer, but I don't think this is any worse than Le boyfriend's leaving of squished bodies on his grape vine as a warning. Next thing you know we'll be seeing their little heads on pikes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trying To Be Happy With What I Have Inherited

There it is ... my big old patch of the ubiquitous Stella D'Oro day lily. The color is one I have very mixed feelings about - Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Orange. Le boyfriend loves it .... and it certainly adds a big punch of color. Except... you see it everywhere. In front of every bank, hotel or chamber of commerce. It practically screams "We were so sick and tired of making choices with the contractor and this is what they offered us."

This is a combination that every year makes me smile .... my Spirea 'Princess" and campanula glomerata. The spirea is a little sad ..... branches will just die off all of a sudden so that it is starting to look like a deranged topiary. Its yellow foliage with the blue flowers is winning though, so I put up with the shape that says "just put me out of my misery."

I love this balloon flower which I inherited from the previous owner. It stays short, probably because of the lousy soil, but is otherwise healthy, lush and covered with blossoms. It is being overwhelmed by some Siberian Iris, but I am afraid to transplant it as they don't pack up and move too well.

This is a Blue Butterfly Delphinium. I am petrified of delphiniums. They seem to die if you so much as speak unkindly to them. I also inherited this one. I have moved it once ... mostly expecting it to kick off by the next season, but it keeps going. I was in Vermont for the past three days for a little vacation and took the time to peruse some gardens there. Lots of big lush delphiniums that make me think I want to try again. Or perhaps I should just be happy that I have been able to make these little babies thrive for three years. No need to push my luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Compost, Beautiful Compost

I finally got around to removing the remaining sod in my new peninsula. The bits I had left upside down to be dried out by the sun had actually started to root! Too much rain- although it makes the lawn look good. I raided my precious compost pile to amend the new area. Isn't it beautiful?!?!

I turned the compost in and then started dividing up the veronica, Autumn Glow Sedum and Helene von Stein Stachys. It looked a little wilty at first ..... considering it was 85 degrees and 59% humidity .... not a cloud in the sky to offer relief. It perked up soon enough though and started looking like it had been there for months!

Nice long shot up to the bench ... I am very pleased with how the plants bracket the bench. It will only get better with time.

I am waiting until the Husker Penstemon and Moonshine Yarrow pass by before I dig them up and move them to the other side of the peninsula.

I spent the rest of the afternoon edging the problem gardens in an effort to make them more presentable. All in all, another satisfying day controlling my teensy, tiny, little world.

The Fourth of July in Bradford, NH

This the 4th of July parade in Bradford, NH on our Main Street. It actually takes place on the 5th of July to accommodate other area celebrations. The parade is dominated by fire and rescue equipment, as you can see here, which makes quite a racket and keeps the kids happy. There were contingents of trucks from Lempster, Goshen, Washington, Newbury & Bradford.The volunteer fire department seems to be a bunch of boys playing with toys, but the sight of them is impressive and fills you with a bit of small town pride. I am also thrilled that anyone donates their time and expertise to make my home safe.

It is also a time for the antique fire equipment to be pulled out and shown off.

I liked that this souped up Fire Chief's car was driven by a teenage girl.

Our trusty trustees from Brown Memorial Library.

As if fire equipment wasn't enough, the highway department had to get in on the action. Here are Bradford's snowplows ... although I am not sure how happy people were to see them so soon. July is the season to forget about snow.

I volunteered at the Red Cross-mobile signing in blood donors. Henry came along to do his patriotic part. He amused small children while their parents gave blood. We all gotta do our part!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It is 6:30 AM and Henry was released from his crate to crash on the rug. Last night was a little rough for both of us with all the fireworks going off at surrounding homes.

Le boyfriend & I crashed early after a long day and soon we heard the click, click, click of doggy nails making there way to the verboten upstairs, amidst the whistle of bottle rockets and booms of larger incendiaries. I swept Henry into the second bedroom thinking I could comfort him and try to get a little sleep on a bed. Not to be... he wouldn't calm down and spent his time trying to push open the doors to get to the big bedroom.

I finally gave up, grabbed my pillow and my dog and went downstairs to sleep on the couch. Henry went into his crate but at least he wasn't running and whimpering through the house. We both slept fitfully. Tonight are the big fireworks in the center of town. I don't know if I can handle two nights of this.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Day In The Life Of My Garden- July 4, 2008

The first big trim of the season has begun. Despite the lambs ear being bumblebee head- quarters they were so tired looking that they had to come down. They look only slightly better but I suspect a few days of airing out will help them to perk up again.You can see my path again as an added bonus.

I have been trying to clear out volunteers of all kinds to give the garden a tidier appearance, but I can't seem to rip out this all purple Johnny Jump Up. Its color looks so fabulous against the Dwarf White Pine.

It seems like this one day of sunshine has caused my Karl Foerster Grass to grow a foot and unfurl its plumes. You can just make out my beautiful clematis growing on the fence towards the end. I was just reading about pruning them and I think to maintain its good looks I will need to do that this winter. That Husker Red Penstemon makes quite a display.

My Ladies Mantle is SO beautiful. Those frothy yellow flowers look so nice with the contrasting colors of hosta and pulmonaria around it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Corporate Gardens

Every once in a while a corporation or agency actually hires someone to do a planting that does a half way decent job. Instead of the usual plunked down potentillas and undersized globe arborvitaes they will use some more interesting plants. That first image is of the Dunkin Donuts in Manchester at the corner of Webster & DW Highway. I love the inclusion of that lovely grass and someone bothered to mix up the colors with some crimson barberry and golden thuja.

Of course it falls down a little because some barbarian put down bright orange mulch and then proceeded to trim the thuja & barberry into graceless little globes. But I suppose the alternative is this little patch of earth in the city could have been paved over and painted green to simulate grass.

These next two images are of the Employment Security Building in Concord right on Main Street. When this planting went in 3 years ago my little heart just went pitter patter. Who, at the state level, would have bothered to choose such a clearly wonderful design? This planting inspired me to ask nurseries everywhere to identify a stunning purple leaved shrub that is included in it ( second photo way at the right.) I finally discovered it is Diablo Ninebark and have since procured one for myself.

About a week after I took these photos the state hired some heathens to come in and clean up the planting, which has been largely ignored since it was installed. I think they either got computer programmers or legislative aids who have never seen a plant before. They, likewise trimmed everything into balls, even the large sweeping Ninebark- heart breaking! I can't believe they put so much effort into shaving everything back to nubs but couldn't bend over to pull up the weeds- they just threw bark mulch over them.

This final photo is of the McDonalds in Concord. It is a fairly mature planting. It is also at a very busy intersection of mostly lights, cars, signs and other general mayhem. It is a real sight for assaulted eyes. Kudos to the owners for having put it in so many years ago and maintaining it.

It adds so much to urban living to have these mini-parks to assuage our souls while we go about our daily commerce.