Slow flowers

I’m giving some serious thought to becoming the kind of person who has fresh flower arrangements in the house. I’ve wanted to be that lady for a long time but have never been much good at keeping flat surfaces free of paper, books, and other random bits of stuff that make the addition of a vase full of flowers, which will sooner or later drop their own trash on the table, feel overwhelmingly chaotic. I also have cats. One’s favorite sport is Smack Things Off and the other has Rocket Butt, which is a super fun and contagious affliction that manifests in lightspeed skids from one flat surface to another three rooms away.Mums, lacy carrot, and spiraea

But last week I was lucky enough to hang out with Debra Prinzing, founder of the Slow Flower Movement (and website) and author of Slow Flowers and The 50 Mile Bouquet, and she, being a fresh-flowers-in-the-house sort of person — and a real beauty to boot, made the idea very appealing.
When Debra mentioned the commitment she made when she was working on those books to create a flower arrangement every week for a year using locally sourced and sustainably grown stems, I found myself biting the hook. (For more information on why we should care about where our flowers come from, here’s an excellent rant.)

Aside from clearing surfaces and discouraging kitteh mayhem, this week’s arrangement was too easy. I didn’t have to buy anything. There were plenty of pickings (I snagged a bunch of Robin Hollow Farm mums) left over from Debra’s Eco-Floral Design workshop and we haven’t had a frost yet so I grabbed plectranthus and spiraea foliage from the backyard and ended up with three little bouquets. Perfect subject matter, as it happens, for my return to painting. (Will I up the ante and pledge to make paintings of each arrangement? Maybe.) Next week, after our first polar vortex melts the annuals and strips branches, I’ll get to really sink my teeth into the challenge of finding/buying locally grown stems.

mums, asters, hypericum and spiraeamums, etc in oil

Do you bring flowers into the house? Do you pick from your own garden? Do you support your local flower farmers? Are you up for the challenge?

Falling back

The beginning of Standard Time was marked this year in my garden with a biting rain that changed into a sideways fat-flaked snow. For most of the day bitter weather forced me to rest on the couch with a dog on my feet, a good book in my lap, and my hands wrapped around a cup of tea. Not the worst thing but I fretted a little about plants I should have moved inside already and that all the fall color and last flowers would be blown away. I shouldn’t have worried. The snow didn’t stick and didn’t destroy the nicotianas, and the wind didn’t separate the wine-red sourwood foliage from its branches. The salvias took it all on the chin too and when it comes right down to it, I don’t mind waiting to dig one or two of those plus the dahlias some nicer day.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)Salvia guaranitica and Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'Red velvet sage (Salvia confertiflora)Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple' turned a bilious shade

And even though I shivered and complained I’m grateful for the fall back to winter and a snowy teaser. I want to enjoy the down season or at least take it as it comes. Says Louise Dickinson Rich in We Took to the Woods,

“In civilization we try to combat winter. We try to modify it so that we can continue to live the same sort of life that we live in summer. We plow the sidewalks so we can wear low shoes, and the roads so we can use cars. We heat every enclosed space and then, inadequately clad, dash quickly from one little pocket of hot air through a no-man’s land of cold to another. We fool around with sunlamps, trying to convince our skins it is really August, and we eat travel-worn spinach in an attempt to sell the same idea to our stomachs. Naturally, it doesn’t work very well. You can neither remodel nor ignore a thing as big as winter.”

Guess I’ll quit trying.

How did you spend the fall-back? Are you looking forward to winter? Do you usually bundle up and enjoy it or wish it were summer again?

Vacationland

Over a lifetime of summer vacations spent lakeside in the great state of New Hampshire I can’t recall ever wanting to pick up sticks and live there year-round. After one week on the Damariscotta river in Maine I can’t stop thinking about leaving little Rhody and living the rest of my life as a Mainer. (Mainiac? Downeaster?) I am aware that the winters are long and cold and I became acquainted with deer flies and ridonculous Vacationland traffic. But I loved the smells. Part pine forest air freshener, part salty shell-fishiness, part mud. And I loved listening to the shoreline forest’s sounds that included (but wasn’t limited to) an invisible (and so far unidentifiable) bird in the treetops that sounded exactly like a squeaky swing set or unmusical-me playing a penny whistle, others with a pterodactyl scrawk, easily identified as great blue herons, and whole colonies of terns pipping and screeching. I loved the quiet around those sounds. I loved the pull of the tide and letting Bazil run free on long dirt road and forest walks to chase and never catch tiny red squirrels.

View from Pirate's PointBazil's walk

And I loved abandoning my reading (and listening and gazing) perch on the screened porch to visit quaint and intensely touristy harbor towns and one very cool garden. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has only been open since 2007 but looks and feels full grown (aside from a few slender trees) and fully established. And it was hopping. Not since visiting the Highline years ago on a sunny summer Saturday have I known a garden to be such a popular destination for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. My pictures don’t do the place justice — it was a brighter day than forecast — so I’ll spare you the full roll and vow to go back. Perhaps in the fall when this hillside (below, top) of thread leaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), Tiger Eye sumac, and bowman’s root (Porteranthus/Gillenia trifoliata) blazes.

CMBG Haney Hillside Garden
CMBG Haney Hillside Garden
CMBG Lerner Garden of the Five Senses
CMBG Lerner Garden of the Five Senses
CMBG Vayo Meditation Garden
CMBG Vayo Meditation Garden

Have you taken a summer vacation? Where to? Did you want to stay forever too?

Rain on the parade

rain on the front yard gardenYesterday, starting around 10 in the morning the sky opened over the longest running Fourth of July parade in the U.S. of A. It rained on miles of flag wavers, fire engines, Cub Scouts, Navy cadets, bagpipers, majorettes, trombone players, and drum corps. It poured on at least one politician running for governor, an ex-con running (again) for Providence mayor and all of the hands they shook and babies they kissed. It sogged picnics and postponed cookouts. It (temporarily) dampened everyone’s enthusiasm for illegal fireworks. And it soaked my dry-as-dust garden. Finally. This might sound unpatriotic coming from a resident of Bristol (admittedly, one of the few whose house is not draped in bunting) but after a long stretch of breezy, cloudless, and mostly crisp and perfect blue skies, for me it was the best day of summer so far.

raining on the back yard garden

Near as I can figure — why aren’t weather websites more forthcoming with historical statistics? — almost 3” fell here. (There was a good 5” at least in my tubtrug this morning. For accuracy’s sake, I really should invest in a proper rain gauge…) Even though a lot of it fell too fast-and-furious not to just run off into the bay, for a few hours at least, while I took advantage of its steadiness to spend blissfully lazy hours reading fiction on the couch and listening to distant drums with a dog on my feet, it soaked the soil and I swear today I could actually watch my garden start growing again. And not just the crabgrass either.

Is your garden getting the weather it needs? Are you thoroughly enjoying your holiday weekend too?

Spring cure

Driving home today with a flat of blue and orange pansies in the wayback I thought about how dependent I have become on their funny monkey faces to cure my spring blues. (Is it just me or do you feel overwhelmed to the point of inertia by the potential of spring?) Almost as soon as the nurseries put pansies out I’m there. This year it feels like very early days but evidently I couldn’t wait. I even tried to resist the urge and then, right before the nearest nursery closed today I invented excuses to go. I suddenly needed to replace a gardening hat I lost over a year ago. I had to buy a pruner holster because I just put mine … somewhere… (It was an expensive flat this year.) potted pansies and stipa 4-13-14My garden is still in its not-pretty-yet stage and the cheerful pots of pansies by my plantry door are totally lipstick-on-a-pig but since I’m not quite ready to tackle all of the dividing and transplanting that my garden requires in spring (it’s Plantiful, doncha know) it felt like the perfect way to ease back into the groove of growing again. And I think I’m a titch happier for it. Money well spent.

It occurred to me to post an old down to earth column on the subject of spring blues and the pansy cure but then I discovered that I already had. Last year. Here.

Do you get the spring blues too? What’s your cure?