What’s wrong with me? In a few days, it will be Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, and my inner New York clock is telling me that I should be able to smell the first hints of an approaching autumn. Here in south Florida, however, summer is still the name of the game.
As I realize how much time has passed since my last post, I am aware of how frustrated and edgy I’m feeling. It has been an incredibly long time since I truly gardened.
Spring. It’s the word and the season that seems to be on everyone’s lips this year — mine included. Perhaps it’s because this past winter was less wonder and more blunder.
Even the posts of this blog have been overly devoted to thoughts of spring. First there was the lament over the loss of the season as I’ve always known it. Then came the quest to discover spring in my new surroundings.
And now, here is a return — if only for a week — to my Long Island roots, where Joe and I visited family and friends for the Easter holiday. As we spent time at Joe’s sister’s house with her horses, and then at my parents, it was clear that this spring is like no other.
The lingering winter chill seems to have spring pressing the snooze button. The season isn’t too quick to reveal all of the richness and fullness of its colors — but the hints are everywhere. Sunny breezes. Songbirds. Peeks of green that seem to multiply with each new day. And a mid-April snow, winter’s reminder that spring best take its time waking up.
A late-season snow leaves a crunchy coating on the spring landscape.
What a difference a spring day makes.
Rose leaves welcoming the slightest hint of warmth.
An iris shoot pushes its way through winter’s brownness.
Tank enjoys a day without his blanket.
Rowdy, the barnyard cat.
Andromeda’s flower clusters are alive with the sound of . . .
. . . bees, eager to get to work.
The tools are also ready to work.
Autumn Joy in spring.
How exciting to see this bit of green sprouting from the woody stem of a hydrangea.
Who will get more apples this year: my father or the squirrels?
This morning, I woke up to snow — and while I may not be a fan of the white stuff, even I must admit that there is something exciting, something magical about snow at this time of year.
Ivy in snow.
On Long Island, a white Christmas is always iffy. More often than not, if there should be any snow, it’s usually washed away by rain or a burst of mild temperatures. Our snowy time arrives after Christmas. Still, the iffiness does nothing to dampen our hope and excitement that this year we will have a “White Christmas.”
Pebbles in snow.
While many performers have put their own stamp on this Christmas standard, I’m always drawn to Diana Krall’s version. Her voice, sultry and intimate, feels like a warm blanket — kind of like the one that’s wrapped around me right now, as I watch sugary powder dust and cover everything.
Bench in snow.
Oak leaf in snow.
Hydrangea in snow.
Chair in snow.
Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.
Baby, it’s cold outside. And for Joe and me, the cold temperature is our cue that it’s time to wrap our windmill palm for the winter months. So while we’re outside, I’m offering my seasonal repost of what it is that we’re doing and why.
I may be the gardener of the house, but Joe also has his landscape loves. One of his greatest is palm trees. His absolute fave is Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm. If it were up to him, coconut palms would be growing everywhere. We often joke that he would be to coconut palms what Johnny Appleseed was to apples — only he would be called Joey Coconuts, which does sound a little — alright, a lot — like a character from “The Sopranos.”
Sadly, coconut palms will not grow in our Zone. Nor will most other palms found around the world. So what’s a palm lover to do? About 10 years ago, we purchased a windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei to be exact, from Stokes Tropicals. Originally grown in China, the windmill is one of the hardiest of palms, able to tolerate a fairly severe freeze and a light winter snow cover.
But this is Long Island, and winters are unpredictable. Sometimes mild, sometimes snowy and frozen — and after the year we’ve had, who knows which winter will come our way. Although the palm receives full sun, there are steps that we must take — or rather Joe must take, with my assistance — to ensure winter survival.
I know. I know. This is a gardening blog, but WordPress has issued a Daily Post Challenge , a writing prompt that spoke to me — or rather, that sang to me. The task was to pick a song — any song — and write about it.
My first impulse was to select “Autumn Leaves,” by Nat King Cole, and add a few leafy photos — and although I love the idea of being wrapped in the velvet of his voice, it almost seemed too obvious. Another time, perhaps, because this music post begs to be more personal.
For months now, Joe and I have been trying to simplify our lives, but there is one area of my own life that remains a hold out. It’s my vinyl record collection, which now sits — alphabetically, of course — in crates that are stacked in my closet. I’m having a very hard time parting with my records. I’ve been talking about it for about 10 years now.
My records, you see, are important to me. They are the records I’ve carried with me for decades, the records I used on countless mix tapes, the records I uploaded onto my computer and burned onto CDs, the records I now listen to on my iPod. Yes, these albums, 12” singles, and imports can tell a story of me better than any diary.
This post features photos of the Suffolk County, Long Island, 9/11 Memorial, which honors the 178 County residents who perished on a crystal clear September morning. I recently visited the Memorial for the first time, morning dew coating each pane of glass, which is etched with the name of a resident and an emblem. The glass panes form a room of sorts, with manicured landscaping on the outside and an inaccessible garden of native plants on the inside. The inner garden is designed to grow untamed, symbolizing the passage of time.
Less than five minutes away from this Memorial is the new one, which is the basis for this post.
In the New York metropolitan area, 9/11 never really goes away. It’s always present. Throughout the year, the news media provides updates on the construction of the Freedom Tower and the deaths of rescue workers who were exposed to Ground Zero’s toxic dust in the days following the attack.
And as the anniversary approaches, 12-year-old footage is re-aired as a precursor to all of the memorial services, the largest of which — the one at Ground Zero — is usually broadcast. In between are the smaller, more localized ceremonies, since so many towns and community organizations have their own 9/11 memorials. It’s difficult to avoid the emotion of the day.
In honor of the holiday weekend, here is a post that first appeared one year ago. The photos still haunt me. I recently returned to the nursery-that-was, and not much has changed. Yes, the weeds have been mown and the random pots removed, but the structures remain (albeit a little more dilapidated). There are also a couple of flatbed trailers parked on the lot, but the abandoned nursery remains, a testament to the loss of small, local, neighborhood nurseries and small businesses that can’t keep up with the onslaught of retail and box store chains, rising rents, and a lifeless economy.
On this Labor Day, please visit a local nursery — and if you would like to open your own, I know a place that’s available.
Sycamores are the first to surrender their leaves to the subtle changes in daylight.
“Some days in late August are like this, the air thin and eager like this,
with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar . . .”
— William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Faulkner almost had it right.
While August is the saddest month in the calendar, it’s also, I think, the most perplexing.
It seems as if August just doesn’t know which season it wants to be part of: summer or autumn. The weather is still warm and humid, but each day grows shorter, second by second. Leaves that were once fresh and green are now dull and drab.
Added into my August angst equation is my non-blogging life. I work in a school, and in a little more than a week, classes will resume. It’s as if August is the gate for my flight into September, and I’m too afraid to leave the area for fear that I might miss the boarding call.
And so I find myself plotting the demise of August while squeezing — choking — all I can out of the last bits of summer. Surely, August must have some redeeming quality.
Joe and I live in the center of Long Island, give or take a mile. That means that our climate is usually a bit different from the rest of the Island. Autumn arrives sooner, spring a little bit later, and the cool ocean breezes just can’t reach us during the summer.
It also means that if we drive west, we can enjoy the sites, sounds, smells, and flavors of New York City and its boroughs — but for a more rural excursion, we can drive east to Long Island’s East End.