Bloomin’ Update 28: I Went To A Garden Party . . .

It seems that quite suddenly, summer has brought the entire world into bloom — and that means hosting a whole bunch of guests to a bloomin’ banquet.  There’s plenty to eat and drink — so, bring a chair, sit back, and relax.

First up: butterflies.  I’m not sure what type of butterfly this is, but the garden is full of them.  They really don’t socialize with the other guests, and can often be found in pairs, fluttering about in mid-air and playing among the lavender.

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Bloomin’ Update 27: Let’s Go For A Walk

I read somewhere – and I apologize to whoever said it because I cannot credit you – it’s a shame that so many gardeners keep their gardens locked up in their backyards. How nice it would be if the garden could be in the front yard for everyone and anyone to enjoy as they walk by. 

That was my thought as Joe and I walked around the neighborhood on this first day of summer, strolling by our neighbors’ homes to get a peek and to be inspired by what was blooming.  This is what we found.

To start the walk, we had to pass our Lace Cap Hydrangea. The flowers remind me of speckled Easter eggs.

This would be a close-up of the “lace” in the Lace Cap.

Across the street, we spotted a small bouquet of Dianthus.

Just up the street, another neighbor had Daylilies blooming everywhere.

Another neighbor had cluster upon cluster of Roses spilling over a rock retaining wall.

I couldn’t resist a closer look at the ruffled petals.

This Daylily seemed to scream, “Look into my eye.” So I did.

Around the corner, there were beds of Astilbe in full bloom.

Up close, the pink clouds reminded me of cotton candy.

Around another corner, we discovered a bed of Yarrow growing around a curbside mailbox.

Imagine our surprise when we spotted a bed of Cactus — in flower — a few houses away. The owner, Helen, came running out and offered us a clipping, and then showed us the rest of her front yard garden. We made a promise to return again for a tour of the backyard — a new neighborly friend.

When we returned home, there was time to stop and smell the Lavender.

Happy Summer!

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: The Last Bouquet

For this Not-So-Wordless Wednesday post, I thought I would share the words of others, words that could somehow capture my feelings as I stand in the garden clipping some of the final blooms.

“Sorrow and scarlet leaf,

Sad thoughts and sunny weather.

Ah me, this glory and this grief

Agree not well together.”

Thomas Parson, 1880, A Song for September

The last page in this summer's garden scrapbook.

“For summer there, bear in mind, is a loitering gossip, that only begins to talk of leaving when September rises to go.” – George Washington Cable

There is a definite chatter as I get to work, selecting what’s left among the flowers.  Looking at the leggy stems, some of them browned, and the leaves dusted with powdery mildew, I can definitely hear a chorus of pleasantries and goodbyes as the summer guests make their way to the garden gate.

 “A late summer garden has a tranquility found no other time of year.” – William Longgood

There is a definite somberness and calmness in the garden today.  Perhaps it’s because plants that I have nurtured for so long, some from seed started in February, are leaving after a full season of delivering what was promised — and paying my respects is the right thing to do.  Maybe it has to do with the color of the sunlight, warm and golden, fading from the brightness of July.  The shadows seem longer, and the colors more muted – and yet, it feels warm and glowing, especially as the sunlight hits the faintest change of color in the leaves overhead.  More likely, though, the overwhelming sense stems from a combination of the two — and a little imagination.

“Spring flowers are long since gone.  Summer’s bloom hangs limp on every terrace.  The gardener’s feet drag a bit on the dusty path and the hinge in his back is full of creaks.” – Louise Seymour Jones

Oh, yes, there’s a lot of dragging and creaking happening by this time of year.  I do feel the energy of summer leaving me — or maybe it’s just sympathy pains for the plants.  Gardeners, I think, develop a kind of symbiotic (or co-dependent) relationship with their charges.  When they sprout, I sprout.  When they bloom, I bloom.  And when they wither away, a piece of me goes with them also . . .

Until the process starts all over again.



Bloomin’ Update 10: Autumn Joy

My plan was to have a post featuring the blooms of the waning days of summer.  With camera in hand, I captured bees tending to their chores on a day that felt more like July than September.  If you could see their bee faces, I’m sure they were aglow with autumn joy.

 Then, in a matter of hours, a cold front roared through.  The clouds thickened and darkened, the wind grew stronger, and fat drops of rain splattered everything.  And all the while, the temperature plummeted — so much so, that by sunset, it felt like late October.  When I looked out of a window, I saw the last canna bloom (was that a shiver?) glowing.  I again grabbed the camera, this time to capture the canna’s last stand — and I was blown away by the vividness of color.

I wondered what other flowers and plants would look like surrounded by chilled darkness and then the glare of a flash.  I was limited in my selection because of the time of year, but I did (surprisingly) capture a noisy cricket in the ivy that climbs up the maple tree.  He’s resting on the large leaf at the bottom of the photo.
Now the Zinnias, a little battered and chewed up, but still holding on to their color.
This Blanket Flower is probably wishing that it had a blanket.

A few of the old standbys:  a faded Hydrangea (take that Madonna!), Liriope spikes, Coleus “Tartan,” and a Caladium close-up.


The Sunflower Sisters, one streaked with orange, the second like a faded version of the first, and the third looking more like celestial eclipse.

Finally, another glimpse of “Autumn Joy” Sedum.  The bees were probably in a state of suspended animation at this hour and temperature.

My late-night expedition into the garden was a wonderful way to close-out summer.  (Note to self: Next year, don’t wait until the end of summer for a nighttime photo shoot.)  Looking back on this growing season, it was exciting to enter the blogging world and to share my life and garden with you.  I appreciate greatly all of the comments and encouragement.  Now, it’s time for cleaning up, digging and storing tender bulbs, protecting terracotta pots, and the never-ending raking — in other words, the joys of autumn.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday


Finding Peace & Harmony On Common Ground


I’ve noticed that many bloggers post a “Wordless Wednesday” each week.  Try as I might to follow the rules of widweek alliteration, I cannot not use words. 

A few posts ago, I wrote about a community garden, The Common Ground, in Sayville, NY, because it is home to a labyrinth garden and truly represents what a community garden can and should be.

Recently, I had the pleasure of returning to The Common Ground, this time to see another, more musical side of a community garden.  Our friend plays saxophone with the Atlantic Wind Symphony, the oldest fully professional concert band on Long Island.  This photo is the view from my lawn chair.  It was a beautiful night, much needed after an earthquake and a hurricane.  The band entertained the crowd with marches, standards, show tunes, and popular music.  For me, the highpoint was a military set, with a song from each of the branches.  Before the set began, the conductor asked veterans from each of the branches to stand up when their particular song began.  To see these men and women, of all ages, stand for their branch and be recognized was quite emotional. 

And that is the beauty of a community garden — the simple idea of feeling connected not only to the land but to people, to a commuity.

Bloomin’ Update 9: Hydrangeas Hate Hurricanes

It’s the day before Hurricane Irene is forecasted to slam into Long Island.  I took advantage of the calm before the storm to give my plants a little pep talk.  I wanted to prepare them for what Jim Cantore and the folks at the Weather Channel said we could expect.  I wanted to encourage them to stand strong against the wind and the rain, that we would get through this together, and to rest easy that sunny skies will return.  I was especially impressed with the Hydrangeas, all of which put on an outstanding show this summer.  That’s why they were featured so heavily in many of the “Bloomin’ Update” posts.

Hydrangeas are my favorite flowering shrub.  I love the fullness of their blooms, the variety of their colors, the look and the feel they bring to the  landscape, and the length of time they hold onto the stem until their glory fades away.  Now, in the waning days of summer with a hurricane breathing down our necks, I offer you a  last look at some of my Hydrangeas, their vibrant colors now antiqued and slightly withered.  We should all be fortunate enough to age this gracefully.

I know this post is about Hydrangeas, and this is a Zinnia -- but with Hurricane Irene on its way, there wasn't enough time to argue with a flower that wanted a moment in the spotlight.

For anyone dealing with the hurricane, please stay safe.  Like I told my plants, we’ll get through this together and sunny skies are around the corner.  At least that’s what Jim Cantore keeps saying.

Bloomin’ Update 8: Summer Finale

At this stage of the summer, I feel as if I am as exhausted as the plants in the yard.  In fact, I am hard-pressed to find blooms that have not already been photographed and posted in previous “Bloomin’ Updates.”  But the task was not completely impossible, thanks to some friends, some surprises, and some guests.

This Pineapple Lily was given to me by friends, Catherine & Robert, when they arrived for dinner. I had never heard of a pineapple lily, but after reading up on it, I learned that they are from South Africa and require little care. In my cold hardiness zone, however, I will have to bring it indoors for the winter, and then restart the growing in the spring. I'll keep you posted on this new project.


Last year, I planted a bed of Celosia "China Town." This year, I was treated to this surprise, self-sown, and very proud of its hot red stem. Yes, I could have weeded this out, but if a seed has managed to live against all odds, then it deserves the chance to live its full cycle. That being said, I think I'll plant them again next year. A full bed of red leaves, red flowers, and red stems truly looked gorgeous.


I know this is technically not a bloom, but try explaining that to this guy. This spider creates a web each night. Joe and I tried to get a photo, so between my camera flashing and Joe's holding a flashlight, this is what we captured. The spider and the web seem to sparkle.


Never mind Broadway's "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark," this spider is probably telling us to turn off the light.


We turned off the light, and surprised ourselves with this photo. Actually, I'm okay with spiders, as long as they keep their webs away from where I have to walk. There's nothing like walking to the car and going face-first into a web.

A Boy & His Bug: It’s Like A Little Prayer

Now, don't start changing my station.

I admit.  I’ve been a little out of sorts lately, and it’s more than it being August and all.  It’s just — well — summer is almost over and I have yet to see my Praying Mantis.  Until today!

This morning, Joe and I packed up the truck with tools and a ladder to help my niece and her fiance repair their wood deck.  When we arrived at their house, and unloaded the truck, I opened up the ladder — and there he/she was.  My Praying Mantis, in all of his jointed glory.

My niece’s fiance was impressed; he hadn’t seen a Praying Mantis in a long time.  What’s a Mantis maniac to do?  Hand over my Praying Mantis as a house-warming gift?  Or, take my big-eyed beauty back home?  Hmmmm, I pondered.  Perhaps I needed to make like a Mantis and pray.  What would Jesus do?  What would a gardener do?  What would Jesus do if He hadn’t seen His Praying Mantis in His garden for a long time?

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Bloomin’ Update 7: Before & After

I can never tell which I enjoy looking at more: the unopened bud or the full bloom. 

There’s something very exciting about looking at an unopened flower.  There’s promise and wonder and anticipation.  It’s like staring at a gift with your name on it that’s been sitting under the Christmas tree for weeks — only you can’t shake it or pry open the wrapping paper to get a peak.  But you know in your heart, that tied up in that puckered green bundle is a treasure of pure beauty: the flower that you always wanted. 

Since it is better to give than to receive, may I present two buds and the two ensuing blooms in the mid-August garden.

Before: Teddy Bear Sunflower


After: Teddy Bear Sunflower


Before: "Vancouver" Dahlia


After: "Vancouver" Dahlia


Angst In August

“What’s wrong?” 

That was the first question Joe, my partner, asked me the other day.  At first, I didn’t think anything was wrong, other than I felt a little sluggish and unmotivated to do anything.  Then I looked at the calendar.  August. 

I’m quite conflicted when it comes to the 8th month of the year.  I know it’s still summer, which I’m thrilled about, but inside I feel dread and sadness, as if the clock has begun ticking on the garden around me.   And once that thought takes hold, all other melancholic ideas start to sprout.  To put it simply, I’m summer saturated.

For starters, everything in the yard looks overgrown.  The Sunflowers can’t stretch any higher, and they are so crowded and top heavy that they are all falling over at odd slants.  The leaves on the trees are dull green.  Most of the annuals look tired.  The grass is burnt.   The Hydrangea flower heads have started to fade away.  Everything looks sloppy.  My impulse is to go out there and rip everything out of the ground and start all over again with new seedlings.  But that would be ridiculous.  As it is, the days of these plants are already numbered.

Then there is the change in shadow.  As the Earth and Sun have done their celestial dance on the way to the autumnal equinox, I have noticed that where there once was sun, there is now shade.  Just ask the Gazanias.  A week ago, they basked in hours and hours of summer sun.  Now, the shadow of the house lingers a little longer over their bed.

And let’s not forget about the quiet changes in weather.  While the days are still warm, nighttime temperatures have begun their subtle decline.  On some mornings, I can smell the faintest whisp of fall in the air. 

That is, perhaps, where most of my hostility toward August stems from: I know what’s coming.  Leaves will start to change, tropicals will have to be dug and stored for the winter, terracotta pots will need to be cleaned and packed away,  nights will become longer.  I can practically feel Light Deprivation Disorder bubbling up.

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