Monday, June 30, 2014

Black-eyed Susans

June 29th and June 30th, 2014

When you're stopped on the interstate for 3 hours,
one advantage you have is being able to see your surroundings in detail.
And the bright spot for me 
was that I was "parked" next to Black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia hirta)
and the butterfly who loved them.

Black-eyed Susans were a mainstay where I grew up in the Midwest,
so it's nice to have them here in the Shire and points north of it.
Especially along the interstate on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Window Boxes for Summer

Once I lived in a town 
where there was a small wooden cottage with a long window box
underneath a wide picture window.
The box was always filled with flowers and trailing vines;
and I loved it so much, I would often drive out of my way just to see it.
I probably wrote a blog about window boxes last summer,
but I figured there were probably some new images to share,
so I did a little browsing online. Here's what I found:

Pink and white impatiens and bacopa do a great job of creating a lush look
on this shake house:

I never thought of hydrangeas for a window box,
but these blue ones really add a punch of bright color:

This next window box filled with pink and white and pale yellow flowers
looks right at home with the chartreuse framed window. 
It's all very vibrant. Who wouldn't notice this?
I can imagine someone giving directions to their home and saying, 
It's the one with the bright yellow-green windows. You can't miss it."
Indeed you couldn't:

Flower boxes can be changed to reflect each passing season,
so they are a great way to add a little charm to your house all year long.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Moss Rose

Portulaca Grandiflora

One thing I recall about my husband's boyhood home: 
in the summer there were always moss roses blooming next to the backsteps.
The most unique characteristic of moss rose 
is that its color palette almost rivals that of iris.
Purple, yellow, pink, white, red, burgundy, orange--
it seems there's a color for every preference.

Because we like to have a lot of "heirloom" flowers around us,
 my husband and I planted moss rose in my reclaimed "sun" bed this summer.
They have really taken off, rapidly filling in and blooming all over the place.
Seeing them always makes me smile...
and remember when.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trumpet Vine

Today while I was out running errands,
I noticed dark orange trumpet vine spilling over a fence.
The orange trumpets were so thick, they practically obscured the leaves.

Trumpet vine is always so pretty, and the hummingbirds like it,
but it is an aggressive plant, wrapping itself around every post
and building it can get its tentacles onto.
Dave Beaulieu, at
called it an "orange thug."

But I guess if you can control it, 
it can be a great addition to your garden.
Here is an image from
that shows how beautiful the trumpet vine can be:

And I really love this one from

It could almost make you wish you were a hummingbird.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mimosa Trees

While most flowering trees blossomed two weeks late this spring,
it seems the Shire's mimosa trees, with their fern like leaves,
couldn't wait to get blooming.
At least I don't remember them blooming this early.
 But here they are, pink and fuzzy, like so many marabou feathers
decorating the green trees along the off ramps and highways. 

What could be better than driving past a forest of flowers
in early summer?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Not many years ago,
coneflowers only came in purple.
Today, there are white ones, white ones with double blossoms,
salsa orange ones, and yellow ones--probably more.
I like coneflowers because they are tough and don't take a lot of water.
But most of all, they are just pretty.
Here are a few colorful coneflowers.

Salsa orange brings a little excitement to the garden. Mine just bloomed.

I planted some of these white ones with the double blossoms. 
This one is called "milkshake":

I've never seen yellow ones before, and even though they are pretty,
I think I'll stick with Black-eyed Susans for this color combination:

Even though coneflowers come in multiple colors  now,
I'm still partial to the purple:

What's your favorite coneflower color?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Balloon Flowers

When you have a garden with perennial flowers,
you find yourself anticipating the blooms.
For the past couple of years,
I have waited for the arrival of the purple balloon flowers 
I planted along a sidewalk.

The balloon-shaped buds start out green,
then quickly turn purple.
One day you think they will never open,
the next day, purple star-shaped flowers are everywhere.

Patience is rewarded.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Carolina Wrens

Summer solstice arrived yesterday with fits and starts of rain.
This morning, more rain.
Finally the rain stopped for a few minutes,
so I went outside and took a careful peek 
at  the violets growing in the window box.
There are wren's nests on either end of the box,
secluded among the thick green of the violet leaves. 

The nest nearest the door
holds 5 tiny speckled wren's eggs.
And today, one tiny, nesting wren.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice 2014

Summer has filled her veins with light ... 
                                      --C. Day Lewis

It's time for...
 sleeping porches, swinging hammocks,

picnics, lemonade, days at the beach or on the water.
Freshly mown lawns, backyard barbecues,
Watermelon, sweet corn, farmer's markets,
wildflower bouquets. 
Glad the first day of summer is finally here!

Friday, June 20, 2014


Yesterday evening we had a sudden thunder storm
 that blew leaves and small branches from the trees 
and left us without electricity for about three hours. 

I confess I am not comfortable without electricity. 
Generally, sitting in the dark doesn't appeal to me,
so we went out for a little while.
And on the way to and from, 
the lightning bugs sparked the twilight 
and lighted our way.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fairy Gardens

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
                                                         --William Butler Yeats, 
                                                                             "The Land of Heart's Desire," 1894

The past couple of years, I've noticed one of the local garden centers
devotes an entire area to miniature plants and tiny cottages
made expressly for creating one's own fairy garden like this one:

Fairy gardens provide a charming escape from the day-to-day worries and cares
that beset us at one time or another. 
It's easy to imagine a tiny fairy swinging in the moonlight in this little garden:

Here's a tiny settlement inside a hypertufa planter:

Blogger Alison Henderson found come cute ones in Carmel.
This one in the broken urn is one of my favorites:

Some people may wonder what the point of a fairy garden might be.
But I think that is the point--there's no point.
It's just fun to create a tiny world
and wait for the fairies to inhabit it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Hollyhock Weddings

Every summer when I was a girl,
my mom would suggest that she and my sisters and I 
 create a hollyhock wedding from the profusion of hollyhocks
that filled an entire garden behind our house.

We would cut one white blossom and one white bud
and join them using a matchstick or toothpick 
so that the open blossom looked like the skirt of a wedding gown. 
She was the bride.
The pink flowers and buds were the bridesmaids.
The dark burgundy flowers became the groom and his groomsmen.
And we'd arrange the entire wedding party of flowers on a tray. 
I was surprised to find an image online. Here it is:

Definitely not the June wedding most of us think of.
Just simple summer fun in a different time and place.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Orange Daylilies

When you have only two pennies left in the world, 
buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.
                                                   -- a Chinese proverb

One of my favorite summer flowers is the bright orange daylily
that grows wild along the highways and country roads.
To me they are the quintessential summer flower.

I read on the web page American Meadows 
that "our" orange daylilies are not native to America, however. 
Instead, they arrived from China by way of Europe,
where they were cultivated as part of English gardens going back centuries.
Orange daylilies proliferated across the USA 
beginning in colonial times to when they were brought west by pioneers 
along the Oregon Trail and other frontier trails.

And somewhere in that journey of centuries,
the orange daylilies one day arrived 
along the fence row of a Missouri meadow,
where small children plucked the bright orange flowers for their mother.
Kind of amazing when you think about it!

Monday, June 16, 2014


Pentas in the Garden

A few weeks ago, when I was selecting sun-loving flowers
for the tiny bed I had reclaimed from the spent irises,
I fished a half-dead plant out of the $1 bin at Lowe's garden center.

Its tag said "pentas" annual.
Well, I had never heard of pentas, 
but I figured for one dollar it was a safe gamble.
So I planted it and waited to see if it would survive.

I just returned from being away for a few days
and what do you know? 
The pentas is about to break out in bloom--
a cast off whose life has been renewed.

And the butterflies and hummingbirds are supposed to love it.
Now all I need to do is wait to see what color it will be
and if it brings birds and butterflies.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Roses by Fantin-Latour

For Dad, who loved flowers for those whom he loved.  
Happy Father's Day

Jacques-Emile Blanche (Atelier de Fantin-Latour, 1919) 
wrote of Fantin-Latour's painting:
Fantin studied each flower, each petal, its grain, its tissue,
as if it were a human face.*

Roses in a Glass Vase 1873

Roses and Nasturtiums in a Vase 1883



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Two Jimson Weeds by Georgia O'Keefe

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it,
it's your world for that moment.
                                   -- Georgia O'Keeffe

Two Jimson Weeds  1938


Friday, June 13, 2014

Irises by Monet

I must have flowers, always and always.
                                           -- Claude Monet

Irises in Monet's Garden  1900

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bouquet of Flowers by Matisse

Today begins a brief series on the joy, transformative power, and artistry of flowers.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
                                                            --Henri Matisse

"Bouquet of Flowers on the Veranda"  1912-13


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Outdoor Rooms

In the 50s, we called them patios;
today, we call them outdoor rooms.
This one is simple and has that retro feel:

I have a shaded outdoor room. It's modest, but it suits my purposes just fine
because I love being able to sit or eat outside in the summer. 
But following are a few that are a bit more elaborate than mine.

I love this one with the blue trellis walls. 
It would be easy to nap or read here--
once you squeezed in!

This next one has a bit more of a rustic ambience and more leg room:

This next one looks very comfortable. 
Yet when I see outdoor rooms like this and the second one above,
I always think they must be in regions that don't get much rain
or tree debris like we get here.

So now that your'e inspired ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Secret Gardens

I recall reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1910 novel, The Secret Garden,
when I was an adolescent.
I was immediately drawn to the novel's themes of healing through nature
The novel's characters transform their sorrows through hours spent
 in a beautiful walled garden with a hidden door.
I think that's one reason why
 I equate the idea of a secret garden with mystery and magic and romance.
So today, I'm sharing some images of secret gardens here.

Here's one from New Canaan, Connecticut's 2012 Secret Garden Tour.
Wouldn't it be fun to walk under the arch 
and touch the smooth stones along the wall.
I bet they would feel pleasingly cool to the touch.

This is one of Savannah's secret gardens. 
No place does Southern charm and graciousness better than Savannah:

Clematis over a wooden arbor draws you in: 

This one is so loaded with old world charm, 
I expect to see a princess with her ladies-in-waiting at the gate:  "Secret Gardens" by gladypost

Wouldn't it be lovely to have a secret garden of your own--
one to go into and sit quietly when your heart was heavy?
And then after some time with the flowers and trees,
 to emerge calm, centered, and renewed.
Magic, definitely.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Southern Magnolia

Southern Magnolias after the Rain

Late this afternoon, a small thunderstorm popped up,
leaving everything soaked.
Afterward, I took my dogs out for a walk.
The steam rose from the street puddles,
the sun peeked through departing clouds,
and the intoxicating perfume of magnolia blossoms
hung heavy in the humid air.

When I am very, very old and remembering my life,
I hope I recall what it's like to walk by magnolia blossoms after a summer rain.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Honeysuckle in the South

In Virginia, you can't turn a corner in the summer
without walking into air filled with the perfume of certain flowers.
Pinks, gardenia, jasmines, and magnolias are always somewhere nearby.
Honeysuckle is always there too.

Usually, the honeysuckle's perfume catches you unaware
as you hurry past on your way somewhere else. 
Then you must stop and search for it,
because the honeysuckle is usually hidden in or on another plant.
I know the yellow Japanese honeysuckle is invasive, 
but what a delicious, delectable, delightful scent.
I love the way it awakens memories of other summer nights.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Shadow and Light

"We are but dust and shadow."

We rode our bikes this afternoon because the day was sunny and bright.
When we ride, we always head toward the river first
then we always get off our bikes and lean over the railing
to look for raccoon foot prints or sandcrabs or nesting geese or waterbirds.

The tide was out, so there was only a sunlit puddle of clear water,
but it was teeming with hundreds of minnows.
And just for fun,
we took turns making shadows over the water.
Every pass of our hands or arms caused the minnows to dart and scatter.
Dust, shadow, and a little mischief.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Garden Walls for Today

Yesterday I shared some photos of old stone and brick garden walls.
I would love to have a walled garden,
but that's probably unlikely in suburbia--
at least the suburbia I live in.
But it's possible to have a modern version, I've found.

Even if you love the romance and charm of brick and stone,
how could you say no to this modern garden wall?

Here's something you don't often see.
This is the wall of a Whole Foods in Kailua:

This next one is pretty amazing. It's a garden wall of annuals.
Dazzling in its excess!
Shaffa Dinsa.

Tomorrow: secret gardens and outdoor rooms!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Garden Walls

When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls ...
                                                  --Mitchell Parish

In Surry County, Virginia there is an historic house called Bacon's Castle. 
I had always heard of garden walls 
and had some romantic notions about drifting shadows and soft ivy,
 but I never understood a garden wall's functionality 
until I saw the one there at the Castle. 
The wall's primary purpose back then was to collect the warmth of the sun
so plants could get an earlier start in the spring.
You might say garden walls are the perfect marriage of beauty and functionality.

Following are a few images of garden walls I found online.
This one is at Sissinghurst in the United Kingdom.
I love the blue gate:
2013-09-12 09.55.45 Sissinghurst

This next one is a low wall, not as fancy as the one at Sissinghurst, 
but I love the way the foliage drapes over the side 
and softens the hard edge of the stone:

My favorite garden walls 
are the old ones built in England over its long history.
This one is at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's home.

Tomorrow, a look at the more modern versions of sleepy garden walls.