Monday, January 5, 2015

Garden Remembrances

The gloomy sky offers another day of cold rain and I have been struck down by a dreadful winter illness.  In between my bouts of coughing and fevered exhaustion, I can't manage enough energy to do much of anything.  You know what I need?  Summer garden photos.  If we can have Christmas in July, why can't I have summer garden in January?

The garden wasn't really at its best in 2014, as a number of shrubs were damaged or killed by the Polar Vortex.  We lost a big rosemary plant in the front garden and had to severely cut back the hydrangea and crepe myrtle shrub in the back garden.  I still have some work to do to fill in gaps in the back garden that will continue this spring and summer.  The vegetable plot wasn't very productive, perhaps due to the increasing shade from the nearby tree.  But we had lots of new garden art, and there were lovely annual flowers.  We had some very nice (i.e., not too hot) days and I tried to keep up better with tending and weeding.  There were bunnies and butterflies and birds, including a number of hummingbird sightings, which I always find thrilling.

So let's explore the garden, shall we?

Front garden, west side (Aug 2014)

As you stroll up the front walkway, you see the front garden, with pathways to take you through the flowers and herbs, humming with bees.  (Don't worry, they won't sting you.)  Perhaps you'd like to harvest some sorrel, since I seem to have plenty.  ;-)

Guardian owl (Aug 2014)

One of our guardian owls greets you from amongst the lavender and butterfly weed flowers.   The guardian owls were a gift from my father and his wife a few years ago (thanks!).  Feel free to explore the flowers and statues throughout the front garden.  When you are done, we'll go around to the back garden.

Ready?  Ok, let's walk around the east side of the house to get to the back garden. 

East entrance to the back garden (Aug. 2014)

Do you like the arbor?  We had it installed a couple of years ago, along with the climbing hydrangea trellises along the fence on the right.  This whole entrance looks so different now.  When we first moved into the house, the entire back yard was just grass, with no other landscaping.  Over the years, we've put in trees, a shed, and garden beds.  This entrance was originally grass with a few large pavers.  Then the grass died (it's really too shady for grass to thrive here).  We had a garden bed put in alongside the house, but we still needed some way of managing drainage here, so we had the riverstone pathway put in.

Setting the pavers (Aug, 2011)
At the end of the path, you can see the shrub next to the shed (which never grew to fill the space) before we replaced it with the dogwood tree and put in the holly behind the shed.  

The finished pathway, but without edging stones (Aug. 2011)

Arbor and trellises installed, with some edging stones at the top (April, 2012)

Here the arbor and trellises have been installed.  The dogwood has been planted at the bend of the path and the hollies have been planted behind the shed.  But the pathway is only edged with stone at the top -- we ended up having the whole pathway edged, to create a cleaner line and to contain the small riverstone (as you can see in the most recent photo).  And this year, I filled in some of the gaps in the bed on the left with a few more lenten rose, as well as planting autumn ferns in the bed on the right amongst the climbing hydrangea.  Oh, and let's go look at the new bird sculptures at the end of the path! [*skips down path*]

Big Silly Birdie (June, 2013)

Big Silly Birdie was a gift from my father and his wife last year.  I love it!  It has lots of personality and is so quirky as it greets me when I go out to the shed. 

End of the riverstone path as seen from the deck (June 2013)

Here you can see how the whole corner looked last year, including one of the the climbing hydrangea trellises on the right.  This year I put in more plants in this corner as well as some additional bird sculptures.

Glass birds (Aug. 2014)

These glass birds were a gift from Q.  They reminded us of the animated birds in the introduction to "The Partridge Family" television show, so Q named them (from left to right) Danny (the red-head, of course), Keith and Laurie.  I am glad we got the stone edging installed, as it creates a nice line dividing the path and the garden bed.  There is an azalea behind the birds, transplanted from its too-shady corner where it was not thriving, and you can see one of the new autumn ferns at the right edge of the photo.  

The Lovely Owls (Aug. 2014)

As you come around the shed, you'll see the Lovely Owls.  We got the Lovely Owls a couple of years ago; they are sculpted from large rocks.  Q named them (from largest to smallest) Tilty, Peeper, Frick and Frack.  Originally, I just put the owls on the ground, but then they got lost behind plants.  So, to raise them up, I got wooden crates for the sculptures to stand on.  Unfortunately, the owls are heavy and the crates weren't very sturdy.  So the tops of the crates collapsed, leading the largest owl to tilt (hence, Tilty) and the middle owl to sink into the crate so that only its eyes were visible (thus, Peeper).  Eventually, Q fixed the crates, so at least for the moment, the owls have reasonable stands.   

The Lovely Owls hidden behind plants (Nov. 2014)

Of course, by the end of the summer, the plants have often grown up enough to hide the owls, anyway!  You can barely see Tilty peeking out from behind the lantana.  I suppose I should get taller stands for them, but I like the hide-and-seek of garden art through the growing season. 

Bunny in the backyard (Aug. 2014)

Wait!  Let's be quiet so that we don't frighten the bunny lounging in the grass. Of course, maybe this is one of our less skittish bunnies.  We nicknamed one of this summer's rabbits, Bravely Bold Sir Bunny (referencing the Sir Robin song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), because it often didn't run out of the garden, even when we mowed the lawn.  It would hop away to hide in the rear planter box behind the tomato cages, but once there, felt sufficiently safe (or emboldened) to stay rather than fleeing the hrududu (Lapine word for motorized vehicle, from Watership Down). 

Vegetable garden bed (Aug. 2014)

The tomato plants grew HUGE this year, and we had a good crop of basil, but the cucumbers and peppers didn't produce much.  I put in more flowers than usual, though, to keep the bed looking colorful. (And there is another newish piece of garden art to the right of the raised bed that I didn't manage to photograph -- it is a lovely brass weather vane from some dear friends.)

Butterfly on zinnia in the back garden (July 2014)

The zinnia I planted in the vegetable bed attracted butterflies and hummingbirds all summer, which made me happy.

Marigolds edging the vegetable bed
I edged the entire vegetable bed in marigolds this year.  I love marigolds -- my garden isn't complete without their cheery blooms and distinctive scent. 

Rabbit amongst the beanstalks (July 2014)

And, of course, I plant beans for the delectation of the bunnies.  Bunnies can't resist bean leaves.  I had the beans climbing up the tomato cages and it took longer than usual for the rabbits to discover them.  But you can see from this one's guilty face (who, me?) and the leafless stalks surrounding it that, as usual, I wasn't going to get a bean harvest this year.  ;-)

Sun and Geckos (Aug. 2014)

We've been adding to our collection of Haitian painted steel drum art, too, purchased from the Tropic Accents Etsy shop.  The Sun (a gift from my father and his wife) still presides over the back garden, but is now joined by two Sun Geckos. I love how they pick up the colors and create a sense of motion on the back fence. 

Sun Gecko (Aug. 2014)

I wonder about these Sun Geckos.  Do they worship the sun from afar, wishing they could be in its bright embrace?  Or are they like the salamanders who live in Bism, swimming in rivers of fire deep underground (as described in The Silver Chair from the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis)?  Perhaps Sun Geckos cavort happily amidst the white-hot gasses of the sun's corona, singing hissing songs of flame as they curl and uncurl their tails in a great solar dance.  Sadly, we cannot see them dance, for it would blind us to look directly at the sun.  We are left merely with tales told by astronomers and astronauts, who cannot among themselves agree on the truth of the matter.  And my Sun Geckos do not talk, or at least I cannot hear or understand their talk, so they cannot tell me their stories.

Faccia among the coleus and scented geraniums (Aug 2014)

On the edge of the vegetable garden, on the west corner of the raised bed, we have placed the Faccia, a recent gift from Q's mother (thank you, J!).  Here Faccia is nestled among coleus, scented geraniums, zinnia, and rasberry canes (in the raised bed).  Faccia is hosting a fuschia plant.  (Faccia, by the way, is Italian for "face" and was Q's pick for naming -- I was rooting for "PotHead", but I don't think it will stick.  So "Faccia" it is.) 

Marble bunnies (July 2014)

Looking to the left of the Faccia, you can see another new sculpture.  We got this marble bunny sculpture in an antique store in New York while visiting Q's mother.  They are so sweet and the white marble positively glows in the shade.  They haven't told us their names yet.  If you like, you can sit on the bench and see if they will let you pet them.  If you listen carefully, maybe you will hear their names. 

Northwest corner of the back garden (Aug. 2014)

This corner of the garden has been a bit of a struggle to put together.  When we moved in, this was just grass, interspersed with some orange daylilies and an invasive trumpet vine (from the neighbor's yard).  We had a tree planted and then had the bed dug out a few years later.  Q put in the paths (including a spiral path that I adore) and we got the Three Graces birdbath (from Gatsby's in St. Michaels, MD).

Northeast corner of the back garden (Aug. 2009)

But it's been difficult to get plants to be happy in this very shady corner, and I continue to battle the trumpet vine (I have cultivated quite a dislike for that vine).  Q has had to readjust the path and the birdbath as the tree roots grow and push pavers askew.  So, even though it is not perfect, I take a certain pride in how it has progressed.  While azalea have not thrived, the rhododendron have, and this year, I put in a Japanese acuba to brighten the shadiest corner.  Japanese painted ferns frame the spiral path, with space for impatiens in between.  Next to the fence there are heart-leaf brunnera and lenten rose.  There are lungwort around the rhododendron and astilbe near the lawn and the bench.  We have space for another shrub or tree, since the butterfly bush finally gave up the ghost (it wasn't getting enough sun, and the Polar Vortex was the last straw).

But even with all its labor and the ubiquitous mosquitoes, this corner seems magical to me.  The spiral path invites introspection (do be careful not to hit your head on the tree branch, though!), and it is full of fun garden art.

Rhododendron & surrounding garden art (Aug. 2014)

This "Aloha" rhododendron is relatively new and seems to be doing well.  You can see one of our groupings of colorful, handmade ceramic mushrooms/toadstools that we put throughout this corner of the garden (purchased from The Bohemian Mushroom).

The gnome house (Aug. 2014)

The gnome house rests at the foot of the tree.  I spent much of the summer righting the gnome house, as it was tipped over almost every time I went out to the garden.  It might have been squirrels, as they have a known hatred of gnomes that goes back hundreds of years (although I have not read any convincing account of its origin; certainly no reputable historian or folkorist subscribes to Pularney's mad scribblings on this subject).  But I suspect it might be the gnomes themselves, knocking over their house in a desperate attempt to call attention to its poor condition and to demand new lodgings from their landlady and landlord.  After all, the house is now some years old and the roof does seem to be a bit ragged.  Perhaps it is time to get another gnome house from Gnome Sweet Home?

Haitian painted butterflies (July 2010)

The western fence in the backyard hosts our extensive collection of Haitian painted butterflies, from the Tropic Accents Etsy shop.

Haitian painted butterfly (July 2010)

I love these -- they are so colorful and pretty!

Haitian painted butterfly (July 2010)

I like the dimensionality of these butterflies.  They really do seem ready to lift off into flight at any moment.

Butterfly stake (July 2010)

This one isn't from Haiti -- this was a gift from Q's mom from an art gallery in New York (thanks again, J!).  It has a wonderful depth of color and seems to glow.  

Haitian butterflies (Aug. 2014)

There are always new colors and designs being created by these talented Haitian artists.  The big blue butterfly in this photo is the latest addition to our collection, a gift from Q (thanks!).  (For some reason, I didn't photograph all of them -- there are at least three more not represented in these photos.)

Haitian painted gecko on the deck (Aug. 2014)

More painted steel drum Haitian art!  I thought it would be fun to have colorful geckos crawling over the deck -- here is the first one, a gift from my father and his wife (I love it -- thank you!).  Hopefully, we can get more in future. 

Bird on feeder (Sept. 2014)

Have you seen enough of the back garden?  Let's go through the western gate and check for birds at the bird feeder.  Oh, look!  This one is often around the feeder, but it's pretty shy and doesn't stay long.  In fact, it's been hard to get a photograph of this bird, as it comes and goes so quickly.  I don't know what species this is, but I like the black-and-white markings. 

European starlings (July 2014)

The European starlings are a new addition to the birds around the feeder this year.  Their colors and markings are so beautiful. (I know, they are considered pests by many, but I like them anyway.)  These are one of the many species of bird mentioned in Shakespeare's writing that were brought to Central Park in New York City. 

Red-shouldered hawk (December 2014)

Speaking of new bird visitors, we had a hawk visit the backyard this winter!  It was amazing to see it so close -- very impressive.    

Crepe myrtle blossoms (Aug. 2014)

Ok, this is sort of cheating, since the crepe myrtle tree we are walking past is actually in my neighbor's yard.  But I get to enjoy the blooms, and the petals drift down to create a blanket of pink over our cars.  

Looking south at the west side garden bed (Aug. 2014)

This garden bed is special to me.  It is next to the driveway and not bounded by fences, so it is more open and public.  At the same time, it is small and intimate and cosy.  But this bed, too, has taken a long time to come together.  We started with the central tree set amidst the grass.  Then we had the bed dug out and the small Japanese maple tree (named "Cousin It" after the shaggy appearance of the Addams family relative).  Then what to do with the rest of the bed?  I started with the creeping juniper, which has done well and gives us some year-round greenery.  Initially, the rest of the bed had a small lilac shrub (which quickly became too shaded and was moved to the backyard), a few mums, and lots of impatiens.   

Looking eastward at the west side garden bed (July 2010)

Here you can see the impatiens, which were pretty, but high-maintenance (needing yearly replanting and frequent watering).  Several years ago, I got inspired to put in a path on one hot afternoon (can you tell I love paths?), using broken flagstones we had unearthed from the front garden.  That gave the bed shape and movement, as well as providing access for maintenance for all parts of the bed.  The flagstones are thin, unfortunately, so they shift around a bit too much, but since it is a little-used path, it works for the moment.  Then I planted lenten rose and coral bells, which have done pretty well in the space.  I've gradually been filling in the bed, adding a few plants every year where there are gaps. 

Closeup of the west side garden bed, looking west (Aug. 2014)

You can't tell by looking at it, but this bed is a pain to weed and plant.  Years ago, before we bought the house, there was a loose-stone parking bed that extended out to this area.  When they created the paved driveway and put in grass, they didn't bother to remove the stones.  So this area is chock full of small rocks and some plastic mesh that is really irritating.  It takes a whole day to weed this bed, after which, my arm aches from the effort.  That makes another good reason to limit the number of annuals I need to plant here every year!

Closeup of the west side garden bed, looking west (Aug. 2014)

I can't manage to get a photo that captures what I love about this garden bed -- its intimacy just doesn't come through.  There's something about this part of the garden that seems very far from the city, even though the road is quite close.  It feels like a self-contained world apart from everything else.  You'll just have to walk around it yourself to find the mood that I get from this part of the garden. 

A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious 
with a feeling of serenity and joy.
~ Luis Barragan

Copper and glass marble mobile (Aug. 2014)

We added this copper and glass marble mobile this summer and it is just perfect here.  It makes me happy to see it every day, particularly when each marble is set aglow by the afternoon light.

I've said before that there are a lot of lessons to learn from the garden (for example, here and here).  This tour of the garden reminds me that it takes time for a big project to come to fruition. Our garden is a work in progress, and it has taken many years to get to this point.  I often become frustrated by how long it takes to finish a project -- I want to be able to put in one giant push and get it all done.  But that's not realistic in most cases.  It takes sustained effort over a long period of time to make something grand, to learn a new skill, to build a relationship.  Big projects take time.   Time for the work to get completed, time for ideas to simmer, time to figure out next steps.  The big projects take patience and persistence. 

I think I needed that reminder.

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, 
everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. 
Gardening is an instrument of grace.
~ May Sarton

Thanks for visiting our garden!  Before you go, don't forget to smell the roses.

Rose in front garden (Aug. 2014)

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