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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gifts of the garden

Weather that enables the spending of several hours a day outside is one of life's great gifts, taking my mind off things like oil spills and a house in need of a serious cleaning. A half-acre yard with lots of trees ensures that there's always shade somewhere, so the gardener can migrate in search of a (reasonably) cool and pleasant place to work. Since the work seems never to be done, life can be lived outside much of the time.

This spring has brought delights.  A weedy little plant that popped up in the yard has a tiny, nondescript bloom but is a favored nectaring spot of an exquisite little butterfly with red spots.  Woodpeckers have taken up residence in one of the oaks.  Geranium sanguinem, a lovely flower that has the unfortunate common name of  Bloody Cranesbill, has volunteered by the back fence. A salmon-pink miniature rose has shown up in the midst of a tangle of Oriental poppy and jimson weed.  (That area is going to be dug out when the yard is regraded, but the rose will be rescued.) The newest furry thief is a chipmunk that has learned how to climb the feeder pole and drape itself across the top of the birdfeeder to access the seed, to the great amusement of all occupants of our house.

I'm even glad that we didn't take out the yew hedge (yet).  A flurry in the bush revealed a young grackle that probably should not have been out of the nest yet, but like most adolescents, this one had evidently attempted a task beyond its skill--flying, in this case.  There it sat, in all its tufted glory, with wild "eyebrows" giving it the look of a mad scientist.  (No camera around when one wants such a thing, of course.)  My fear was that one of the neighborhood cats would get it or that it would starve, but the parents quickly found the errant offspring and brought food, and it was still in its evergreen hideaway the next day.  By evening, it was gone, so I'm hoping it learned to fly.

It was a good week in the garden.  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Garden update

Where does the time go? It's been over three weeks since the last blog entry, and school is not even in session.

The days have been full, though, with more activities than will be reported today, some of them of an emotional variety. (I'm still processing my reaction to a Mountaintop Removal site, viewed in the company of the engineer leading the work.)  Most days, however, have featured at least a little yard time, so here follows the state of the garden.

"Muddy mess" is still an apt description, though the mud is in different places as new beds come into being.  This week's project was the creation of a butterfly garden along the street in front of the house.  To our surprise, the front yard is not all sand, as we had thought: an extensive portion of the area used for the new garden proved to be heavy clay--the joys of old fill dirt.  Some of the plants chosen may well struggle in clay, but we shall see.  The strong will survive.

At the moment, our hedge of burgundy-leafed physocarpus and one panicle hydrangea backs a more-or-less organized mix of the following plants, only a couple of which are in bloom so far.  Visit in July for what should be a riot of color.
white valerian
butterfly bush
cardoon (not sure why I opted to try this, but the thought of a giant, edible, thornless thistle that's actually cousin to an artichoke amused me)
"Cherry Brandy" rudbeckia
purple perennial salvia
"Hummingbird Coral" annual salvia
"Terra Cotta" snapdragons
mixed nasturtiums
creeping sedum

Empty spaces will be filled in with whatever's left over--and I have three wild lupines to find homes for.  Too bad West Virginia doesn't host the Karner blue butterfly.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A mixed bag of emotions

This week I have been unable to keep my eyes off the reports from the Gulf of Mexico.  I have never been to coastal Louisiana, but the marshes of coastal Georgia are one of my favorite landscapes, and the mangrove swamps of my Florida girlhood were magical places, full of birds that hardly looked real.  I mean, how could something as outrageous-looking as a roseate spoonbill manage to exist?  The thought of the numbers of deaths that are probably occurring as I write this--and that are due to a cultural addiction in which I participate--leaves me feeling sick and saddened.

But going into the garden-to-be always brings healing.  This week brought the sight of the first tiger swallowtails of the season, and the amusing spectacle of courting grackles.  For a few moments it seemed as if wild grackle sex would take place in broad daylight in full view of the neighborhood grandmothers as we chatted over the fence, but discretion prevailed, and the birds moved on.  The places where we haven't mowed yet are dotted with tiny seedling trees, at least some of them white oaks, offspring of the two giants whose pollen gave serious grief to my sinuses a few days ago.  What does it say that the sight of the babies brought delight, and a reminder to self to get the little things in pots for for an upcoming plant sale?  If they find homes, those two-inch trees may live for 500 years, more time than separates us from Shakespeare.  Such a thought is a true comfort.