Tag Archives: gardening

Sumac stealth

“Ugh, it’s hot. My app says it’s 97.”

“My app says it’s 94. Rain at 2:00.”

“Mine’s showing it holding off ‘til 4:00”

This conversation, nearly verbatim, happens to an embarrassing degree in our house. I’m not sure whether it speaks more to being married for more than thirty years or to being over-reliant on our devices.

It was really too hot to be poking around scrub land behind retail space in search of sumac, but there we were. Finn’s tags fell off somewhere along the way this week necessitating a trip to Pet Co. We left the dog home and brought along gloves, spade, and two empty containers.

My mother was famous for plant-grabbing. She’d drive up into the woods behind our house in Pittsfield as far as the road would go, and fill the trunk with small trees which eventually, of course, became big trees. My brother claims she got permission from the landowner. I’m not so sure.

I’d seen her pull over on Route 43 or Dalton Road and dig up what to any other eye might appear to be a weed, perhaps with a spoon that she happened to have in the glove box. A little savage. Let’s just say she was a resourceful opportunist with a very good eye. This being her birth week, I figured why not honor her with my own sly acquisitions?

Last weekend, we more legitimately came by a clethra and a yew. These are all for the fence line along the back edge of the property. I also had to buy and plant two flats of pachysandra which the workers stomped to extinction on my neighbor’s property. Part of the price of our new fence.

And speaking of that neighbor. The son has come home with his girlfriend to live and turns out, the girlfriend is interested in learning how to quilt. Would I want a student? I almost said no, but I’m already thinking what I’d bring to a casual show and tell for a first lesson. And if the main reason I don’t want to proceed is because I can’t think what to charge a recent college grad with no job, then is that really a reason?

I sent my neighbor away with a few books and gave her Jude’s blog’s name. Ruth McDowell’s too. The young woman is an engineer so it occurred to me that McDowell’s precise piecing method may appeal to her. That’s a place to start, answering the question: What are you drawn to?

Meanwhile, I finished this with a little help from my friends (speaking of Jude, also Maggie and Jenn) (mostly re: a disappearing head. I think I fixed it!)

Cake, pies, and dirt

The chocolate cake turned out “stodgy,” as they would say on The Great British Baking Show. Dense, chewy and close to inedible, in other words. When Paul Hollywood calls a dessert stodgy, he doesn’t spit it out (the ultimate condemnation), but close. Picture a wrinkled nose and a look of pity.

We will consume it. If you pretend it’s a tort, it kind of works. Ice cream makes it tastier.

I hope my annual currant pie turns out better.

Meanwhile, the heat makes moving dirt a brutal chore. I asked the patio guys to leave us two large piles because I just couldn’t bear to see them haul it away. It keeps K up at night, but I plan to go at it, bucket by bucket.

An old pin cherry root will be installed out back. It’s been tipped over and neglected in the lilies of the valley. Now it will get pride of place. Guardian of the shade!

A nasturtium blooms. My hydrangea are reluctant to grow and half the tomatoes I bought as seedlings haven’t changed at all in four weeks. It reminds me of being twelve when I fervently wished (and wished harder) that I would keep growing. Hallelujah little orange flower!

And speaking of growth, that Rose of Sharon was nearly destroyed by rabbits last year and just look at it!

Lastly, I’m feeling that blogging is both a life line and something that could fall away nearly without notice. How can it be both things?

It occurs to me that a normal summer would have included weeks of travel, weeks when blogging did fall away, in other words. There would have been a coming back. Maybe there was something in that formula?

Just wondering.

Tidying, recomposing: inside and out

Vacuumed the studio today, mostly because it is soooooooooo cool in the basement now and it is so hot and muggy everywhere else. Also, about two weeks ago I garbage-picked a sweet little chest of drawers and I have to make space for it (“bye bye” to two more milk crates! well, not bye bye, they’ll be re-purposed in the garage…)

While cleaning up, I couldn’t resist pawing through one of my scrap boxes and composing a little foreground. I want to try an elephant a la Jude’s cats. Not the Nine Patch cats, but the free-form pieced/applique cats. This composition might be too busy for an elephant (or for anything you say!). We’ll see. It’s meant to be the cloth equivalent of doodling. Not to capture the line of a drawing as both Jude and Grace are talking about, but rather to stitch with the somewhat vacant, relaxed air that can accompany doodling: tacking down, turning edges under, or not. No big deal.

The side yard is getting some attention this summer — in a lazy kind of way. The loss of corner lot hemlocks to disease will expose that side of our house radically in the near term. So I am trying to build up some screening (without spending any money). The Rose of Sharon was an off shoot of an existing tree. I used to think of them as ‘junk trees’ but now love how prolific and fast-growing they are (funny how plants go in and out of our favor, isn’t it?) The sedum were split last summer. Hosta, astilbe, mini-iris came from crowded places elsewhere in the yard. The whole thing is a bit of a challenge for two reasons — one is that my neighbor’s plow guys shove snow here — I’ve lost two shrubs in the last two years on account of that (another reason not to spend money).
The other is the black walnut (the big trunk on the right) — some plants don’t take kindly to a toxin produced by its roots. I’ve learned that the hard way and now keep a list on my phone for easy access while at the garden center (oh what did we do before smartphones?!!)

One of these years (not this one) I will make good on the promise of those walnuts and dye fabric with them. Or eat them.

continuing, growing, editing, waiting and one finished thing

gluing

hanging, waiting

one finished thing, using clay beads I made in high school in my mother’s art room

considering – hat, hair okay, but new body needed

resurrecting and basting BEECHES phototransfer, printed years ago

dangling, blooming

offering green, green, and more green

resembling a monster

neatening, editing

getting slippers dirty

gazing up at dead branch overhead

smiling, waiting for prompts

texting, waiting for prompts

surviving unseasonably cold temps

organizing

 

How does your garden grow?

How lovely to fight solar glare at drop-off today!  It’s a real circus, drop-off is.  Students coming and going, lugging backpacks, strutting their uggs (girls), nearly losing their pants (boys), drivers pausing, then not pausing, inserting themselves, waiting, then not waiting, the U driveway, the crosswalks, the parking lots, left and right — it’s a big ole mess, and not the least bit so because many behind the wheel are brand new drivers (and teenagers, to boot).  So, when you add blinding sun, it is always a cause for caution and concern.

But, today I said, “Yippee”, because who can’t use a little sun at this point?!

Raking recently, I made an interesting find.  Not a soccer ball or hockey puck — though I find plenty of those.  In fact, I have long maintained that the thing I grow best are balls (GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER).  I refer, here, not to my male progeny, or my own lizard brain’s tendency toward aggression, but to the propensity for all manner of recreational balls to land in my perennial beds.  Baseballs and whiffle balls from my baseball-crazy neighbor, soccer balls from my boys and two kitty-corner neighbors, kick balls that crossed two fences from the schoolyard behind us, tennis balls from god-knows-where, and lacrosse balls, which can be blue, yellow, or white.


And, as trees have ‘drip zones’, I have long been aware that D.’s second-story window has a ‘launch zone’, in which I am STILL uncovering various objects like Playmobil pirates, Legos, and things so wrapped in duct tape I have no idea what they are.


But, imagine my surprise when I unearthed C.’s missing RETAINER in the beds by the driveway!!!  It has since been replaced (at a cost I won’t reveal because I don’t want to lose my breakfast), but nevertheless, it truly felt like the boys’-toy-garden-turned-treasure-trove and surely will go down in family lore, along with the story of K.’s father going through reams of garbage to find HIS lost retainer some 40 years ago.