Saturday, May 31, 2014


If you ever drive through the coastal plain, you'll notice the land is flat.
Sometimes flat with thick forests
and sometimes flat with fields of cotton, wheat, corn, and tobacco.
And of course, there is water everywhere. 
If it's not visible, that's only because it's obscured by the trees in front of it.

But in many spots along the road wildflowers grow;
Queen Anne's Lace, orange daylilies, and vibrant pink thistle
provide pops of color.

In all the landscape's blues and golds and greens,
it's nice to see the bright pink blossoms,
even if they are on a thorny plant.
But  really, is the thistle any less beautiful than the rose?

Friday, May 30, 2014

English Ivy Part 2

As I  mentioned yesterday,
I have 4 types of ivy growing in various places around our house.
Mostly because ivy grows well in the heavy shade,
but also because I've always thought ivy was pretty
and evocative of beautifully manicured English gardens, 
as opposed to the hit or miss quality of most suburban gardens.

Photo credit: Alamy.

Our true English ivy 
consistently tries to escape its pot and entwines itself into nearby shrubs.
That's one I cut back ruthlessly.

 The fourth variety we have is a large leaf ivy that has been given its freedom.
But who would have guessed it intended to devour the Madison jasmine whole
and spit out its bare vines like bones?

This aggressive ivy is either a Boston ivy or an Algerian ivy. 
I"m not sure which, but it's got a very large leaf and is very green and lush.
I suppose we will let it fill in as far as we need it to,
and then when it tries to encroach into forbidden areas
we'll deliver swift justice.
If it will let us.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

English Ivy

I have always loved photos of English gardens
with manicured expanses of ivy like this:

I have a few different types of ivy growing around my house,
most of it confined to small planters.
One is a small-leaf  variegated ivy that never gets as green or as white 
or as thick as I want it to.
It looks a lot like the one in  this photo,
which is identified on the web site 
as hedera helix "golden child,"
which would explain a lot:

Variegated ivy.jpg
Photo credit: Molly Glentzer

Another is a light green small-leafed ivy which also underperforms, 
so they must be related.
more ivy stories.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Zinnias have always been one of my favorite flowers.
They are present in some of my earliest memories of flower gardens.
After  our move to Virginia,  I had planted some in a pot once 
but they fell victim to powdery mildew,
the curse of humid environments.
So I haven't grown any for years.

But once I fixed my tiny little flower bed in the sun,
I decided to give them another try.
And so there they are, vibrant pinks,
saucy oranges, pink-edged whites.
I am hopeful that they will bloom and grow
through the summer.
But even if they don't, just seeing them has given me enough pleasure 
to last for awhile.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wild Roses

Late this afternoon as I was driving home,
I noticed a beautiful wild rose blooming at the base of a utility pole.
I had forgotten that the rose bush grew there
until I saw its deep pink roses.

Through most of the year,
it just looks like an ordinary shrub, nothing special.
But when late May comes and the time is right,
the rose reveals itself.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Zen of Pulling Weeds

Most of the year, my job requires me to be indoors on the computer.
So when a holiday arrives on a beautiful late-spring day like today,
I head for the outdoors.

I spent a couple of hours today pulling weeds out of the moss
that grows in our backyard.
Over time, the moss formed a soft carpet that hugs the ground,
but in spring, sourgrass, other grasses, and assorted weeds invade.
While I worked, the fountain gurgled and bubbled nearby
and a gentle breeze stirred the air.

No hurry, no where I had to be but kneeling on the green moss under the trees.
Definitely a zen experience
and one of the best ways to meditate and commune with nature.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blue Jays

The blue jays were all over the place at our house today.
One drank from the fountain,
another splish-splashed in the bird bath over and over again.
Others ate from the feeders.

My husband found some grubs while moving paver stones,
and he put them in the feeder.
The blue jays flocked in and gobbled them in seconds.
Sunday dinner, bird style.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


An observation we can make about southeastern Virginia
is that many of its roadways are lined with a wall of foliage.
And in that mass of green, one can find squirrels and birds,
understory trees like dogwood, redbud, hickory, and American holly;
and tangled through their branches: Virginia creeper,
greenbrier, Carolina jessamine, wisteria, and honeysuckle.

Today as I was driving along the interstate,
I spied an oak tree wearing a  golden gown of honeysuckle
similar to this one, but much,  much thicker:

The old oak's branches stuck out like arms.
And from midway on its trunk up to its crown,
the tree was clothed in a thicket of honeysuckle blooms.
All dressed up with nowhere to go,
but I bet the perfume was divine.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Baby Blue Jays

This morning I went out on my deck to see how my flowers
fared after last night's rain.
And I heard a  lot of squawking up in the trees.
I looked up and saw two fledgling blue jays sitting side by side on a branch.

Like these two in a photo by Rae Spencer:

Fledglings are so gawky and awkward,
but so cute.
Another of the lovely surprises of May.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tall Hostas

A simple planting turns out to be a tall order ...

I worked outside planting flowers yesterday,
which allowed me to notice for the first time
that a few hostas I had planted last year
turned out to be very tall growers
 identical to these:

These leggy plants pose a design issue. 
Since they are hostas, I assumed they would form low, neat mounds;
so I planted green and white variegated hostas behind them.
Now the green and white hostas are eclipsed by the tall guys.
I guess I'll either have to move the variegated hostas forward,
or plant more of them in front of the tall ones to even the arrangement.
Or maybe even move the tall ones to the back next spring 
and move the green and white ones further forward.
Is there a master gardener in the house?
What would you do?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sun-Loving Flowers

The real voyage of discovery consists 
not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
                                                --Marcel Proust

I have always liked this quote by Proust,
and it came to mind this morning.
I had written a lament yesterday about all the sun-loving flowers 
I can't grow here in the shade,
and concluded that I was resigned to accepting what I've been given.
And then...

I'm considering purple coneflower

Today I "discovered" a tiny flower bed in full sun
at the front of my house.
For over a decade it's been filled with iris, 
but in the last couple of years they all died.
We neglected the plot, allowing the shrubby Asian jasmine ground cover 
to overtake the bed, rendering it virtually invisible.

Or maybe an Indian blanket flower

But this morning, I cleared out the ground cover
and the dead leaves and voila
I have a lovely little flower bed 
with surprisingly soft soil--in full sun.
So Proust was right,
I didn't have to seek a new landscape after all.
And now I'm going shopping. ;-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gardening in the Shade

There is an adage that I've heard from time to time:
"thank God for unanswered prayers."
It is so true.
I thought of that today when I was looking for flowers to buy.

Purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans--not for the shade. 

Every flower that I wanted had the two words I've come to dread:
 "full sun."
Full sun means I have to pass the flower by 
because most of the planting areas I'm buying for are shady.
Too much shade.
And how did I get so much?

 I once lived in a house that had not one dapple of shade,
and every day I gardened in the unrelenting sun,
I'd pray that one day I'd have shade.

And now, I have too much shade
 and as it turns out,
very few summer flowers will grow in the absence of direct sunlight.
I want to hope and pray for more sun.
But considering the last outcome,
I'm holding off.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Most Popular Flowers

May is the month for flowers, as we all know.
But have you ever wondered which annual flowers
are the most popular in the US?
I was curious so I googled it.
The results may surprise you.
Here are the top 5, according to Garden Guides,
in no particular order:

Impatiens make the grade:

Petunias, too:

Did you guess geraniums?

Marigolds, definitely:

And how about a drum roll for pansies?

I've grown all of these at one time or another,
and I can attest they all have something special to offer.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gerbera Daisy Colors

I can't imagine a flower more able to soothe our disquietude
than the gerbera daisy.
Its open face and fan of colorful petals
just seem to say: trust the order of things, be strong,
meditate on contentment.
In that regard, here are some beautifully colored gerbera daisies to contemplate:

I can't deny I love this hot pink color in any flower:

How about sunshine yellow?

Blushing powder pink?

I love the pristine look of these white ones:

So which of these is your favorite color for a gerbera daisy?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gerbera Daisies

Yesterday I saw a house
with bright red-orange gerbera daisies
planted along the foundation.
They made for an eye-catching display. 

Photo source:

Gerbera daisies are one flower 
that seem more suited to summer than late spring.
Maybe that's because they are a member of the sunflower family.
But unlike sunflowers, these daisies come in lots of colors.
Tomorrow, we'll look at a few.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Green Pastures

For every beast of the forest is mine
and  the cattle on a thousand hills.
                                Psalms 50:10

From the plains of the Midwest
 to the coastal plain of the East Coast,
there are green pastures and hillsides.

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

On some, cattle rest in the early afternoon,
on others, beautiful chestnut horses graze.
Still others are dotted with small white goats that do both.
Such scenes are wondrous in their simplicity,
but it turns out the greenest pastures 
are the ones where you live.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Daisy, Daisy

Today I drove by a meadow filled with wild daisies.
When I see those waves of white, I can't help but feel good.
Most likely because some of my happiest memories are connected to daisies:
attending my cousin's daisy-themed wedding when I was a little girl,
picking a bouquet of daisies for my mom,
sitting in the soft grass, plucking the petals of a field daisy 
and playing "loves me, loves me not."

The simple daisy, a type of aster, grows all over the world. 
Since daisies are such a prolific wildflower,
I'm sure everyone must have a happy memory to share.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


This week I have seen many flower beds
filled with bright orange-red poppies.
The stalks are so slender,
 it seems they could hardly support their own colorful flowers, but they do.

I have read that poppies symbolize sleep and peacefulness,
and that they serve as reminders of those who died in battle.
But poppies also symbolize faith and loyalty in some traditions.
Regardless, I love them more for their beautiful red and orange petals
and their bold black centers.
Even though they represent sleep, 
I'd say they are one of the more exciting garden flowers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Lilacs in May

Of all the scented flowers,
few could surpass the sweet perfume of the lilac.
This week I passed by a lilac shrub 
and was immediately transfixed by its heavenly fragrance.
I plucked a small flower head and carried it for awhile 
to enjoy its scent.

The appealing smell of that lilac flower transported me to other days in May, 
ones filled with warm breezes and sunlight.
Lilacs are alternately said to convey innocence, confidence, and protection.
But to me they are sweet reminders of another place and time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cloud Shadows

Far from the Shire
there is a ribbon of road that rises and falls
across the landscape.
Vast fields stretch out from either side 
and hug the contours of the earth.
In early spring, those hills are purple with henbit;
in the summer their fields grow full and green.
But yesterday, the hills were covered in cloud shadows.

Fluffy white clouds moved across the sky
and cast wide shadows across the fields.
If someone were to walk across the freshly plowed soil,
they would feel the shade.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On the Road Again

I notice lots of things when I'm driving.
I steal a glance at the landscape as I go by
and see so many scenes worthy of a painting.
Three brown calves standing in a rocky, tree lined creek
on a sunny morning.

Four horses in various shades of pale
standing under a tree with spreading branches
as the rain falls around them.
Immense fields of yellow buttercups,
waving fields of green spring wheat.
Such are the scenes of a day in May.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Field of Blue

Driving a couple of shires away from my own,
I passed by fields of light blue wildflowers.
At first I thought I was seeing chicory in bloom,
but these flowers massed together
to create clouds of light blue.

Could the blue flowers be Virginia blue bells like these? 

Blue flowers in green grass,
green grass under blue sky.
Do we need anything more?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Keukenhof Gardens

Today I thought I'd step outside of the Shire
in order to share some beautiful images I found on Google.
Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands looks like a spring wonderland,
with tranquil canals and thousands of colorful flowers.

The Keukenhof Gardens may not be Eden,
but they come close.
Imagine the possibilities.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mountain Laurel

Yesterday the mountain laurel blooms were still tightly closed and rusty.
I was sure they wouldn't open until this weekend.
But today we had a heat wave with the temperature
reaching 90 degrees.

 Photo credit: Will Cook, 2008

That was enough to get the mountain laurel's attention,
and by evening, the white blossoms were full and open.
Beautiful May.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


If you've followed the Still Waters blog the last couple of years,
you know that for many spring planting seasons,
I've enjoyed a bounty of tiny volunteer impatiens sprouts.

But seasons change,
and the summer before last we had so  much rain,
every impatiens plant rotted.
That meant no springtime volunteers--not a single one.
Back to buying flats of impatiens. 

So this morning, I planted impatiens in the flower beds
along the front and side of the house.
Lots of work,
but there's something metaphysical about planting beautiful flowers
and seeing them grow.
To build on the words of garden design historian William Howard Adams,
flowers are a link to the divine.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cross Vine

Every spring the cross vine "returns" to our woods.
It never really leaves though.
All through the other seasons,
the long, thick, woody vines hang along the trunk of the oak tree
where the cross vine resides.

It's only in the spring that the clusters of yellow and burgundy red trumpets
make themselves known.
They hide among the new leaves,
occasionally dropping on the deck 
to announce they have returned.
There's something very comforting about such continuity.

Monday, May 5, 2014


This morning we had beautiful weather,
so I spent a little time planting marigolds.
As I've noted before in this blog,
marigolds are an important flower for many religious ceremonies
around the world.

But I love them because marigolds 
are the very first flowers I ever planted as a child.
I remember carefully dropping the seeds 
into a fine dust along the foundation of our house,
somehow certain they would grow.
And then they did grow.
My faith was rewarded with a colorful row of flowers
favored by butterflies.
Marigolds--a good choice when you need a flower 
that won't let you down.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Garden Fountain

Around my house, one sure sign that summer is coming
is seeing our fountain out of the garage and back in its usual place 
at the center of the flower bed.
The sound of this fountain is so relaxing.

The water bubbles out of the top of the pineapple
and spills from the upper tier into the large basin.
Not too loud, not too soft.
Just right.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


I noticed the first of the bearded iris blooming today.
The ones I saw were deep, dark purple.
When they are that dark,
 they practically blend right into the landscape,
lending a sense of mystery to the gardens they grace.

Whatever the color, iris generally bloom here in April,
so they are late this year.
I'm tempted to say "better late than never,"
but for a flower as well-dressed as iris,
I guess we should say fashionably late instead.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sweet Bay Magnolia Tree

A wonderful little surprise greeted me
when I was outside today.

I discovered that the sweet bay magnolia tree 
near my front door is already in bloom on this, the second day of May.
I love the glossy green leaves, the pristine white petals.
It is such a delight to have the air filled with its luscious perfume.
The month of May...definitely one of my favorites.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day!

Today is May Day!
May 1st has been celebrated for centuries.
And why not?
What could be a more gentle holiday
than one that invites you to leave a tiny bouquet of May flowers 
at someone's front door?
If you missed out today, here are a few ideas for next year:

I absolutely love this combination of yellow mums,
an orange rose, and a candy pink gerbera daisy:

This May basket from the Pies and Aprons blog
is loaded with old-fashioned charm. 
The lilacs and daffodils complement one another nicely,
and I bet they smell heavenly:

More gerbera daisies, these paired with white lilies.
They look wonderful against the blue door:

Happy May Day, everyone!