Monday, June 29, 2009

Just when the red poppies were blooming, I finally took time to prune a trumpet vine that grows on the temporary arbor I put up a few years back. I made it so that it could be quickly disassembled, because it stands under a massive dead elm tree. I wanted to be able to take it down when the tree was felled and then reassemble it in a more permanent fashion once the mess was cleaned up. Okay, you guessed it. We haven't cut the elm tree yet, and so the arbor is still "temporary". Weathered, but temporary.

The arbor, with no two parallel lines, is living proof that I didn't inherit my father's carpentry skills--but I did inherit his "can do" spirit (this is not necessarily a good combination). Needless to say, the vines didn't grow quite the way I'd planned, either. Instead of covering up the sides and top of the arbor and turning it into a leafy bower, both the trumpet vine and the Aunt Dee Wisteria on the other side developed woody stems with no leaves for their first five feet (the wisteria almost died out last winter and is very puny this year--but hanging on). The trumpet vine, instead of covering the top, insists on shooting straight up for the sky, so that I had to get a very tall ladder to prune it back. While I had the ladder out, I decided I might as well install an owl on the arbor in hopes that he might scare rabbits away. I also hope people will look at him and not the arbor. And part of me hopes the elm tree will fall onto the "temporary" arbor and crush it so that I can start over and do better next time. Do gardens make everyone delusional? Or is it the poppies?

Friday, June 26, 2009

This shade garden is one I leave alone until after the wild geraniums are done blooming in early June, because they fill the whole area with a gorgeous lavender drift of color. (I pull out their foliage after they bloom, but their sturdy roots stay in place so that they will come back next spring--like magic.) By the time I do pay it some attention, things are usually getting a little out of control--like hostas. Some need to be divided, but the ones taken from the empty space here needed to be moved because they were just too tall for the front of the border. The ones taken from this spot filled the back seat of my daughter's big, red Buick and turned it into what looked like a portable garden center. Maybe she stopped off somewhere on her way home and sold them--I don't know. What I do know is that I've been trying to get all of these basic, tall green hostas (whose name I am sorry to say I don't know) out of the front of my border for about ten years, but they just seem to keep working their way in. Now I think I may have made progress, having given so many away and having moved so many back toward the edge of the woods. I disparage them, but I also love their healthy leaves and their pretty, fresh green color. And, after all, they were here before I was. As were the wild geraniums. They all have their place. (Sometimes it is in a car...)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How to photograph a garden? I read once that it's good to shoot from a high vantage point so as to get the scope of the whole space, and that is what I have always tried to do--up until now. Last fall, after the elections, I heard a photographer being interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio. He was discussing camera angles and how they either help or hurt candidates. When the photo is taken from below the candidate's face, he said, it makes the candidate look more authoritative and more trustworthy, according to studies. When taken straight on, it has very little effect either way. When taken from above and looking down on the candidate, it has the effect of making the candidate look less trustworthy and less capable. My candidate is this garden, and I decided to try shooting from ground level. The result: my favorite garden photo in a long time. This candidate appears to be asserting itself strongly against grass. It seems a colorful but eco-friendly kind of choice. It can be trusted to give many hours of enjoyment. Ground-level photos get my vote.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some things we grow in the garden have leaves. Some have wings.
Some have legs. While I have been dawdling in the house because it is 90+ degrees outside, others have been busy. This spider placed its web dead center in the path/driveway that leads to the garden. When I came waltzing along with my laptop early this morning, headed for the pergola and a little quiet writing time, I nearly walked into the web. It was suspended across the 8' wide path by two almost-invisible strands, as if it were hanging from a tightrope between the shade garden on the left and the woods on the right. I suspect the spider, like me, loves the view from this particular spot. Despite my lack of favor for all things creepy and crawly, I let the web stay. Natural causes will have their way, but for today, I prefer not to be one of them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A peony taller than a pergola? Some garden! The sight of peonies standing proud and tall before they bend and droop is breathtaking. This year's peony crop has been especially nice because we have not had the usual damaging thunderstorms that come in June. I picked some of the side buds from the peonies last week, put them in a plastic bag and stuffed them in the back of the refrigerator crisper drawer hoping that I can induce them to open in a month or two. I would have peonies every month in the year if I could--ants and all. But since I can't, I'll settle for the memory of this tall beauty gracing a perfect June day (even if the peony is not really taller than the pergola).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Raspberries I Have Known

I finally finished cleaning up the raspberries, the job that should have been done in April. Only two months behind--not all that bad. And I learned a thing or three by being late. 1. I didn't do any irreparable damage by being late. The canes are tall (but not over my head) and berry covered. 2. I may, however, have done my body irreparable damage, because having to cut out dead canes when everything is so tangled together causes considerable scratching and sinking in of thorns. 3. I need to believe in what the canes are telling me, whether it's April or June. In other years, when I have cut the canes back just as the leaves were breaking dormancy, I didn't believe that some canes only had buds near the bottom, or half way up, while some were showing signs of leafing out all the way to the end, so I left them all about the same height, resulting in lots of half-dead canes poking out everywhere. By being late, I observed that some, indeed, only leaf out near the bottom. Some halfway up. Some all the way up (except for the very tip). There is actually an advantage to being late, which is that you can weed the patch while you're cutting the canes, something you can't do in early spring.

So, despite the fact that this job took several hours over several days, I think I have a pretty nice finished product. I was able to tuck the canes neatly between the wires, where they will stay until the first bad thunderstorm--longer if I'm lucky. These are everbearing raspberries. I've been known to call them "overbearing" raspberries (and not in the sense that they bear too much fruit--more like the co-worker who keeps reminding you how much he enjoys his yacht and Ferrari). In two or three weeks I'll be calling them sweet raspberries. Next April, I'll be calling them overbearing raspberries again, I just know it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tree peonies aren't really trees. They are woody shrubs that in spring display some of the most beautiful flowers ever grown in a garden. This is Kinkaku, which I planted in August of 2007. It gave me two blooms this year, each one about 7" in diameter. They lasted only a few days, but for the rest of the summer the herbaceous peony's foliage will quietly adorn a sunny spot on the south side of my house, impervious to pretty much all pests and disease--like any other tree, even though it isn't a tree.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Old Masters

They paint the garden
each June,
eschewing water lilies
for Siberian irises
that defy the sky
to match their blue,
for lace-edged peonies
that test their skills,
and soft yellow irises
they brush in across the backgrounds
like clouds.

The canvas sways
on a gentle breeze--
these flowers planted generations back
know their limits--
and the artists daub broad strokes of color.
An old garden is a palette
but never mastered.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

There is such grace in a single leaf. Such wonder in the translucence of that which has heretofore appeared opaque. Such amazement in details. Such dignity in maintaining one's composure even when life has been severely disrupted. When we least expect it, we are, like this leaf, held up to the light of others' opinions, their careful vision, their needless comparisons. Fortunately, we all carry with us the dignity of a plant newly divided, beginning each day anew, faults and all. We are larger in spirit than we know. More complex. Our glow outshines our faults. We face disruptions large and small--and go on growing. We are all single leaves. In a garden.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Portable potting bench, purveyor of perennials, saver of shoe leather--what a wonder is a truck. Much gardening ink has been spilled on the beauty of a good hoe or perfect pruning shears--but the gardening tool I love the most is my old truck. It saves me miles behind a wheel barrow and its end gate is just the right height for potting--which is how I got this bouquet in the back of my truck. As you can see, I should have divided the Frances Williams hosta and the Sugar and Cream much earlier in the season, but it was just this week that my daughter sent out a call for more plants to fill in the borders she is creating around her backyard, and so it was just this week that I grabbed the shovel and set about finding some things she might be able to use. One by one I potted not just the hostas but also astilbe and huechera, balloon flowers and daisies, lamb's ears and baptisia--and more. I secured them behind the cab for their trip to Northfield (only the hostas rode under cover). By evening, my daughter had them in the ground and by the next morning they had the rain they had been longing for. Gardening with my daughter made for a perfect June day--thanks to the truck.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garden in a globe
lavender harbinger
bouquet on a stick
tower of flowers
burst of beauty--
deer deterrer.
Welcome to my garden,
sweet allium.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's not trick photography--well, maybe just a little. The hosta leaves aren't as large as the three-foot wide fountain, even though they might look that way on this photo, but they are well over a foot wide, wrinkly and wonderful. The azaleas (orange, above the fountain)--not so wonderful this year. I don't know if I failed to fertilize them at the right time, or if the poor bloom is just the result of a cold winter. I suspect that I should be thankful to have them in bloom at all, since I've seen many azaleas in distress this year, including some that have died out completely. Small bloom or large, they still light up the woods like neon. The hosta relies on its quiet strength to get attention--and tries to be in the foreground of every picture.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bleeding Heart

Your life a song
that lilts
across the days,
a ribbon unspooling
in the breeze,
blown glass
dangling on a bending bough,
a soul
delight in all directions.

Monday, June 1, 2009

First rose of summer. This beauty appeared on one of my tree roses last Tuesday morning (May 26), the earliest I can ever recall having a rose, any rose, bloom here in my garden. I wintered the tree roses, in pots, in my garage, worrying every time I went past them that they would not make it. The garage is unheated, except that it is attached to the house and partially in-ground, so does not suffer the temperature extremes that a winter outdoors would bring. The roses held their green leaves until Christmas, making me wonder if I should water them or what--but I opted for leaving them alone so that they could go dormant. In January the leaves began to crisp and by March I hit the doldrums of worry that I had managed to kill off these three new beauties. On the first warm days in April I set them outside for a few hours each day and almost immediately buds began to show. They have made steady progress ever since, although two of them suffered dieback on one side. In early May I repotted them and gave them a little fertilizer. In mid-May I gave them a bigger boost of fertilizer. Last week I added some well-rotted "barn dirt" aka "composted manure" from my neighbor, who grows the most amazing tree roses I have ever seen and who swears by the barn dirt recipe. Hers, planted in the ground, will grow bigger and flower more, but one of mine flowered first and has already offered enough delight to last me the whole summer. Thank you, neighbor. Thank you, rose.

First Rose of Summer

Ruffled ball gown,
layer upon pink layer,
dances in the breeze,
perfume waltzing.
Lover kisses her neck,
lighting her soul,
the opaque
is now translucent.
Skirt swirls wider,
crinolines rollercoastering.
She rests in the gleam of his smile
like tea in the finest cup,
secure in his warm embrace
as the music slows
and fades.
Wallflowers watch,
until the dance is done,
then take their place
in the sun
and do not dance