Sunday, June 30, 2013


The tiny little blue flowers called 'forget-me-nots'
have a lot of interesting folklore around their name.
The Latin botanical name for them is myosotis 
which means "mouse ears" according to

The same wikipedia entry contains some interesting
accounts of how 'forget-me-nots' came to be called that.
One explanation is from a German story.
In this story, God was naming all the flowers when a tiny one shouted,
"Forget-me-not, oh Lord!" And according to the story,
God said: that shall be your name: "forget-me-not."
Sounds to me as if God may have been running out of name ideas by that point,
but it's a cute story. 

Another unique story said to date to 15th-century Germany
claims a knight in armor and his lover were walking along a river.
He bent to pick some of the tiny blue flowers that grew along the bank.
However, his armor was too heavy and he lost his balance and fell into the river. 
As he was drowning, he threw the bouquet of blue flowers to his lover
and shouted, "Forget me not."
A charming story, but surely he must have yelled something more like "Help!"
I concede that "Forget me not" sounds more romantic.
But by the same token, if he were going to go for a romantic walk
I imagine he would have left the armor elsewhere.

Regardless of why we call them by their common name,
forget-me-nots are a charming little addition to one's garden.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


One of the prettiest perennials I've ever seen is the cosmos.
I haven't had much experience growing it, 
but  my sister in Montana always has one or two planted around her house
and when I've seen them, they are very pretty.

Cosmos  flowers have 3 fringed petals around a golden center
and the foliage is feathery like dill,
which I like because foliage like that is good for softening hard edges
in the landscape.

Cosmos come in beautiful jewel tones like deep pinks:

And yummy orange-juice yellows:

And of course, pinks, whites and violets:

I just planted one that is kind of a deep burgundy pink with a yellow center.
Burgundy isn't my favorite color, but I'm anxious to see how these turn out.
They should be a nice pop of color against the tan siding on the house 
and will complement the old purple-red brick of the foundation.
We shall see.
If they do well, I'll supplement with some whites and pinks--
and maybe a little gold to give the bed a little sunshine.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Balloon Flower

How great is it to have a flower bud that also looks like a balloon?
Pretty great, I have to say.

The balloon flower (platycodon) comes in blue-violet, pink, and white. 

Here's pink:

And here's white:

The blue-violet one is my favorite because it's blue, of course,
but also because that makes it a little unusual in the landscape.

I first planted a purple-blue balloon flower a couple of decades ago.
I had planted it from seed--it's the way most people planted 
flowers and vegetables in the "old days." 
And I was delighted when the purple-blue balloon flowers grew up
and popped open to reveal their blossoms.

And just last week I planted a balloon flower alongside my garage;
this time it was an already well-established plant in full bloom.
It's a real delight to walk around the corner and find a little plant
full of  petal balloons just waiting to burst.
Sometimes, it's the little things that make life worth living.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Coneflower

As I mentioned yesterday,
June is perennial gardening month.
And in celebration of perennial flowers,
I'm devoting these last days of June
to some of my favorite perennial flowers.

Yesterday, purple coneflower had center stage,
but there are more coneflower varieties all the time.
One is a pale violet color, which lacks the deep saturation of  purple.
Here is a sampling of other coneflower colors;


Deep red-orange:

There's even mango!
Mango Meadowbrite

I bet these would all be lovely together in a coneflower garden,
but I still love the purple ones the best.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Yesterday I was in a garden center and noticed a sign that read:
"June is Perennial Month."
I had been unaware that such a commemoration exists,
so I have gotten all the way through June without celebrating perennials
in the spirit of the month.

But in an interesting coincidence,
I had already decided to devote the last Still Waters posts of June to perennials
because I had just purchased a few of my favorites.

So today, we'll start with the "perennial" favorite of lots of people:
 purple coneflower, also known as echinachea.
When I was in Missouri recently, the coneflower grew wild
along the banks and meadows, topping the green grass with a fringe of purple.
This photo of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden in Missouri
is a good representation of what I saw.

When I lived in Missouri, 
I grew the purple coneflower intermixed with orange butterfly weed.
It was a happy combination, and the butterflies loved it.

I took this photo when I was at a local garden center last year;

Last week, I planted two coneflower plants--
but they weren't purple.
Join  me tomorrow to find out just how colorful coneflower can be

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


When I was a kid, it seems every gentlewoman 
who liked to garden had a collection of succulents called "hen and chicks."
They grew them in strawberry pots and planters:

In a world filled with  beautiful flowers, 
I could not comprehend the inclusion of hen and chicks.
Their pallid green color, liver-colored edges, and spiky ends left me cold.

But fast forward to now. 
I have developed a new appreciation for succulents
(although to be clear, I still don't care for the hen and chicks plant).
But how could I not appreciate the subtle shades of green, gray, and blue
found in these flower-like beauties?

I have planted several in two pots 
that are placed in front of my Buddha statue.
They are a  soft, serene counterpart to its cool white marble.
And I find myself drawn to them 
there in the midst of all the colorful begonias and impatiens.
They give the eye a place to rest.

Following are some images of succulents I found particularly beautiful.
Look at the symmetry of this unfolding succulent:

Here's a luscious wreath. Succulents at Lowe's cost about $3 to $5 each,
so I wonder how many dollars this guy was:

Here's one that has a lovely green color and petals:

This is a cute idea: succulents in an electric blue bird bath:

I love this one too. Its simplicity evokes serenity:

Seeing all these neat ideas for gardening with succulents 
makes me want to have more of them. 
Lucky I just happen to have a strawberry pot with no residents right now.
But no hen and chicks allowed.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Another story about squirrels...

Last summer I found a really interesting little book called
Dictionary of collective nouns and group terms
by Ivan G. Sparkes.
It is full of obscure collective terms
 that once had a stronger foothold in the English language.
For example, when one had a great amount of pain,
it was referred to as having a "plump" of pain.
Since the term "plump" now describes the fat content of most of us Americans,
I'd say there's little chance of that word being used again to describe lots of pain.

Image from

But I thought of Sparke's little book this morning 
while I was sitting on my deck having morning coffee
 and being the breakfast for a couple of persistent deer flies.
The quiet of the morning was disturbed by the most raucous collection-- 
according to Sparkes, a  dray--
of juvenile squirrels our little woods have ever held at one time.
I counted 8 young squirrels chasing one another 
at top speed up and down just one tree alone.
That's 32 little paws rattling the bark and fanning the leaves
as they skittered up and down and around.

But that was just one tree. 
At the same time, in a couple of other trees, 
there were as many young squirrels pursuing one another.
They sped "lickety-split" as my mom would say.
Round and round and up and down.
Betwixt, between and through.
I counted at least twenty.

And just for a moment I found myself hoping this 
dray of squirrels was going to move on and spread out into my neighbors' trees.
As I've said before, a couple of squirrels--cute.
Two dozen squirrels eating pine cones and birdseed at your backdoor-
that's one dray of squirrels too many.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Supermoon" 2013

Last night the moon was clear and bright over the Shire,
but occasionally obscured by dark clouds.
I hope tonight will be clear so we can see the "Supermoon" of 2013.
This June's supermoon is a full moon, showing itself on June 23rd.
Here is a photo of  the May 6, 2012 supermoon
shining over the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, 
taken by Victor R. Caivano of the Associated Press:
Photo credit: Victor R. Caivano, 

According to internet reports,
this will be the biggest full moon of the year,
and it will be about 16,000 + miles closer than normal
since the moon is in perigee; 
that is, its orbit is bringing it closest to the earth.
The moonlight should be 30% brighter than other full moons.
And because it's occurring so near to the Summer Solstice,
it will appear to be even closer.
So when the moon gets that close and shines that bright,
 it really is a cosmic event.

Here's the supermoon of 2011 as seen in Russia. 
Photo is by Smirnov Vladimir, ITAR/TASS:
The supermoon in Russia in 2011 (© Smirnov Vladimir/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis)
Photo Credit: Smirnov Vladimir, ITAR/TASS

Every year there is a supermoon,
and every year it seems I miss it either because the sky is too cloudy
or I fall asleep too early.
This year, I hope the stars align and conditions are right for me to witness it. 
If not, than I hope you get to see it where you are.
It should cast some lovely shadows.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Yesterday I drove by an unusual sight:
a mass of lipstick-red cannas easily 20 feet wide and as many feet deep.
They were also quite tall, probably five or six feet.
Taken all together, those red cannas created an amazing scene.

We once had red cannas planted to obscure the electric meter 
on the side of our first house in Virginia Beach.
I can't recall if those cannas were red, which seems likely,
or coral pink which seems equally likely 
when viewed through the mist of memory.
Regardless, what I do know is 
that cannas come in lots of  pretty spectacular colors.
Here's a coral pink with flashes of yellow and ivory:

And these yellow ones with coral spots look very exotic:

I like this lemony yellow one better though:

These candy stripe ones are unusual:

But pink ones have their own special gifts:

Wikipedia says that cannas are a cousin  to ginger.
Maybe that's what gives cannas their extra snap!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice 2013

Today is considered the first day of summer
in the northern hemisphere. 
A couple of articles online,
notably this link for National Geographic and this one for the Washington Post,
tell us everything we might want to know about the summer solstice,
including the tilt of the earth, the zenith of the sun,
and the cultural implications of the summer solstice for neo-pagans and farmers.
That's a lot of information.

The bit of information I enjoyed the most was from a table 
on the Washington Post web site that gave the total hours of sunshine
for some of the major cities in the world.
At the solstice, the sunny hours increase as one goes north.
At the North Pole, the sun shines for 24 hours--
that would be a fabulous sight. 
I'm not sure what it would do to one's circadian rhythms though.

Sunshine and Brilliant Blue Sky
photo by A. K. Entingh, 

Stockholm will have  21 hours and 42 minutes of daylight.
Here in the Shire, we should have a little less than 16 hours of daylight,
judging from the estimate for Washington, DC's 15 hours and 58 minutes.
The city in the table with the least daylight today?
That is Hong Kong with 14 hours and 20 minutes.

Whether you call this Summer Solstice, first day of summer,
or Midsummer, any time the sun shines longer
is a good day in my book.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Surprise Lilies

I know that surprise lilies, lycoris squamigera for you Latin fans,
are the blush pink lilies that rise suddenly from the earth,
one reason they are also called resurrection lilies or magic lilies.
When I was a kid, they were known as naked ladies;
I guess because they spring up sans leaves.
I found this photo on the blog In my Kitchen Garden.
This 2009 photo has rustic charm:

Lovely, but these are not the surprise lilies I am talking about today.
I'm talking about orange daylilies
 that I dug up from my parents' front yard two summers ago. 
The orange field daylilies alway bloomed along the roadsides 
in Missouri where my parents lived. 
And there were many times
 that I would stop the car on my way to see my mom 
and pick her a bouquet of orange daylilies.

And one of my favorite memories of my dad
 is how he would pick huge bouquets of daylilies and other wildflowers 
and come walking up the lane to our house
while holding the bouquet behind his back so he could surprise my mom.
Here's an image of a daylily-wildflower bouquet
from by  Margurerite, no last name:

The two daylilies I dug from my parents' house
were the opposite of  the magic lilies, for the orange lilies
 had leaves but no stems or flowers.
I figured they would probably never bloom.
And then yesterday, I rounded the corner of my house 
and there was the most perfect orange daylily blossom I've ever seen.
Here's the photo I took with my phone:

It's only one flower stalk, but it's a start. 
This spring I noticed the original daylilies from my parents 
have formed a few "new" plants.
Where there is life, there is hope.
And sometimes a surprise of daylilies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Begonia Carpet in Brussels

Last year when I was researching begonias
for this blog, I happened across something I had never heard of before:
a flower carpet. Specifically, a flower "carpet" of begonias in Brussels,
a tradition that has been recreated bi-annually since the early 1970s.

Photo: Aaron Ross, 2007, Clemson Extension,

Since I wrote about begonias in general yesterday,
I thought I would write about them in particular today
by sharing photos of the Brussels begonia carpets through the years.
This is the carpet for 2006:

Here's one from 2010, described in the blog Bella Floral:

This one is copied from
The text in the upper left corner reads: 
"The first Carpet of Flowers was created in 1971
as a way to promote begonias. 
Each square metre of ground contains more than 300 flowers."

This one of the 2004 carpet is from the web site Event Horizons 17:

This one is from

This last one is also from It's very pretty,
but its been stylized to show more vivid colors than reality.

Amazing what beauty and whimsy people can create when they work together!