Monday, July 16, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

Last week we finally had some rain and a few days of pleasantly cool temperatures.
It didn't last, but just after a soaking rain, I left work early and stopped by a rose garden in a local park.  It seemed like the roses had been pruned recently and most were not in full bloom. But there were enough roses to have some fun with macro photography.

In fact, I ended up focusing a lot of my time on a few nearly perfect blooms of Love and Peace.
 It was fun to fool around with macro composition.  I can't decide between the next two photos.
 Maybe I don't need to choose.
I've been thinking about raindrops on roses and other favorite things lately.  I posted about some other garden pleasures here and here.  July is a slow time for gardening here because of the heat and humidity, except that there's an awful lot of weeding that needs to be done.  It's nice for me to focus on garden pleasures to make sure I don't forget why I do it.

Thanks once again to Lisa's Chaos where Macro Monday is hosted each week.  Today I see I'm not the only one to post close-ups of roses.  There are lots of other fun macro photos there too.  Check it out.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Lilium 'Casa Blanca' (oriental hybrid)
Welcome to Garden Blogger's Bloom Day hosted by Carol of May Dreams GardensI hope you enjoy Bloom Day as much as I do.  I think it's useful for me to have a record of what's blooming in my own garden, but even more importantly, I like seeing what's blooming in other people's gardens.  It's so valuable to be able to get an idea of when plants bloom that I might want to grow.  It's such a vital piece of information for planning a garden bed, and yet it's information that often doesn't appear on the plant tag or in the catalog description!

Flower of eggplant, Solanum melongena
So, without further ado, here is what's blooming in my garden this July.  I feel pretty lucky, because I was thinking that July was a slow month for blooms, but I have enough that I'm not going to be able to show everything.  I'm sure I will not be so happy on August Bloom Day, but the crape myrtles will probably be still blooming...
Crape myrtle -- genus Lagerstroemia
I mentioned Gloriosa daisies in June and Shasta daisies a few posts ago.  They are both still going strong.
Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky' (top) and Rudbeckia hirta (bottom)
The biggest clump of daisies front an area that I cleared a few months ago of overgrown nandina.  I didn't get all the roots out so they'll be back, but the Eastern redcedar (upper left) and Mahonia (upper right) are glad to have a little breathing space.  I like being able to see the old tree stump through the gap, which I think is rather picturesque.  That tree came down in 2003.  It was leaning dangerously after hurricane Isabel hit and a fearless neighbor convinced us that we could cut it down together.  It was much more difficult to cut than we anticipated.  I think hackberries must have exceptionally dense wood.  The persistence of the stump might support that theory.
Shasta daisies -- Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky'
In another storm several years later, another tree fell and created this gap in the neighbor's fence that has never been fixed.  The "borrowed view" includes a rusty wheelbarrow... and LOTS more sun for these crocosmia that exploded into bloom from complete obscurity.  I hadn't even known they were there.
Crocosmia crocosmiflora
Next are three views of the Butterfly garden.  First, daisies and cannas in the foreground with Rudbeckia hirta (the annual black-eyed susan) and Bee Balm in the background.

Canna indica, Monarda didyma (probably 'Raspberry Wine'), Rudbeckia hirta, Leucanthemum x superbum
Here are the daisies again with white obedient plant and a blue glass bird bath, with the foliage of swamp sunflower beginning to tower over everything, and a rosemary shrub in the background.
Leucanthemum x superbum and Physostegia virginiana 'Miss Manners'
I think the blue speedwell in the next photo combines beautifully with everything.  It's taller and airier than other speedwells I see, which is part of what makes it combine so well, I think, but also makes it hard to photograph well.  I love it with black-eyed Susans and with purple coneflower.  It was not well labeled when I bought it and that was years and years ago.  I'm not sure about the species, but I think the tall veronica is longifolia. (Any help would be appreciated!)

Echinacea purpurea, Veronica longifolia (?), Rudbeckia hirta
I don't have a lot of roses, since they are a favorite snack of deer, but I have never bothered to remove the ones that the previous owners planted.  This one hides in shrubbery until it towers well out of the deer's reach (or mine in fact), and then blooms about ten feet in the air, mingling with the leaves of the sweetgum tree.  I don't know what it is but it seems very common around here.  In fact, I wonder if it's blooming from the rootstock of grafted hybrids that passed away long ago.

Unknown rose
The last photo is in the front of my house.  This is the bed that was covered in a swath of chamomile in the spring, and later with black-eyed susans (again, the annual kind).  All of these are self-sowers, as are the sulpher cosmos you see now.  This is also where I put basil every summer.  This year I'm trying a "lettuce leaf" as well as my favorite Genovese.  This year I mulched with compost to improve the soil.  I hope that doesn't prevent the chamomile seeds from sprouting.  I might sow some seed from a fresh packet for insurance, but it didn't prevent the cosmos coming up, so I guess it'll probably be fine. In fact, you might spot a squash of some kind, just above the lettuce leaf basil in the photo -- that came with the compost I think.  I guess I'll pull it ... maybe later.
Rudbecka hirta and Cosmos sulphureus

For the record, some flowers that are also blooming but not shown: abelia, butterfly bush, doublefile Viburnum (very late blooms, I think), Annabelle hydrangea, mophead hydrangea, Rose-of-Sharon liatris spicata (going over), Evening primrose, four o'clocks, sundrops (just a few last blooms), pickerel (just finishing), oregano, cerise queen yarrow, gaura, black-and-blue salvia and lots of annuals (lantana, zinnia, pentas, sweet alyssum, and still a few larkspur blooms) and another still remarkably early New York aster bloom.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fragrance in the Garden, Another Ruling Passion

Lilies!!!!  Oh, I'm so, so glad that the lightening bolt hit and I finally realized that I CAN have lilies in my garden!  For several years after I moved to this house, there was a lily that would sprout and bud each year, only to have the buds be eaten by deer.  The previous owners had a dog, who would keep the deer at bay, I suppose.  But I have no dog, and therefore, I figured, could have no lilies.  I never even found out what color that lily was before it eventually gave up the ghost.  I never planted any others, of course.  Who sows heartbreak in their garden on purpose? 

Then I talked to my green-thumbed hairdresser who casually mentioned the dozens of lilies she has growing in pots.  In pots!  That was the lightening bolt.  Last spring I ordered some Casa Blanca lilies and put them in a big pot on my deck where the deer can't reach them, as an experiment.  It worked!  Now it's their second summer and they are blooming again.  Next year maybe I'll even get more.  In fact, I probably need to divide these up into two or more pots because they are significantly more floppy this year than last year.

I think lilies are beautiful but the main reason I don't want to live without them any longer is their fragrance.  Fragrance is one of my true garden pleasures, very high up on my lists from the Ruling Passion Exercise from Rand Lee's Pleasures of the Cottage Garden, which I wrote about in an earlier post.  Lilies are more strongly fragrant than anything else in my garden.  I had noticed buds on the lilies in the morning before they first bloomed, but it was the fragrance that alerted me that they were beginning to open.  Incredibly, the fragrance of this year's first lily wafted out into the garden when the flower was only open about this much:

This is a good month for strongly fragrant flowers in the garden.  The butterfly bush has been especially floriferous this year and my husband even commented about its fragrance.  I have it planted just next to a path that I travel all the time to get to the shed and compost pile and the fragrance is strong enough to catch your attention without you having to stop and sniff.
The butterfly bush is probably past its peak, but still blooming.  Just coming into their peak, however, are the four o'clocks.  I let four o'clocks self sow and consequently have a big enough drift of them to waft their fragrance into the evening air.  I have two kinds, a very tall off-white which is not blooming yet, and the multicolored "Miracle of Peru" which can have majenta, white, or yellow blooms as well as striped, zoned or spotted blooms of multiple colors.
I would love to have fragrant flowers in bloom all the time.  I have many flowers that are fragrant if you get close and sniff, but not so many like these whose fragrance drifts afar.  Both are a pleasure in the garden, but the flowers that meet you more than halfway, wafting their fragrance over passersby, are a special joy in the garden.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gardening in Sunglasses

Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
It's been quite hot and sunny here the past two weeks and my gardening has been limited to brief sorties into the glaring, humid heat.  When I went out around noon it was 95 degrees in my Zone 7b part-shade backyard and 105 in my Zone 8a full sun front yard (my house is probably not literally the boundary between horticultural zones, but it often seems like it).  My sunglasses, usually not worn while gardening, gave everything a surreal look, and inspired these photos.  No, I didn't put sunglasses on my camera, but I went for subjects where the high contrast between the light and the dark really stood out to me.  The first subject that caught my eye was the Virginia creeper above.  The glowing red and green of the sunlit stems and leaves contrasting with the dark grain on the brown fence is what caught my eye.  I didn't quite capture how this looked through sunglasses but it's a fun photographic experiment.  
Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky'
Next up is Shasta Daisy.  In these lazy, hazy, daisy days of summer, I always enjoy seeing the crisp white of the daisies.  With sunglasses on, the white jumps out against the dark background of the evergreens behind it.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Similarly, a beam of sunlight playing across the gigantic flower cluster of Hydrangea arborescens in my shady side yard brings out the cool buff white of the bloom.  I love hydrangeas and this buffy color seems to really add to the grandmothery charm of them.
Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium (atlanticum? angustifolium?)
My final photo is blue-eyed grass, a wildflower I have encouraged in my garden.  With sunglasses on, it seemed to me that these tiny blue flowers really jumped out of the shade.  The contrast of the blue with the yellow center and pollen grains stands out boldly in shade, too.  I don't think the two plants are closely related, but this color combination had a similar effect on me when I noticed a spiderwort flower in deep shade in the very same part of my garden, in another post, in May.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Little birds and little bunnies

Kip, a very tiny Eastern Cottontail
I've had an adorable little visitor in our garden lately.  Many gardeners don't appreciate his kind and I know how they feel because I feel the same way about deer.  But bunnies don't bother my garden too much.  The few vegetables I grow are protected in pots on the deck and the rabbits seem to mainly enjoy eating clover in the lawn.  We usually have a few rabbits in our yard but don't always see the very young ones.  This little guy is only about the size of a softball.  By tradition, his name is Kip.  (In fact, whenever we see a little one like this, its name is Kip.  The original Kip is probably a fat old bunny by now.  He probably goes by a more grown-up nickname among his rabbit friends nowadays.)  The name comes, indirectly, from Winnie-the-Pooh.  Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne, was called Kip by his family in real life.

Carolina Chickadee
There's also a lot of bird activity in our yard, year round.  While I was trying to stay inconspicuous behind shrubs to get close enough to photograph the baby bunny, this Carolina Chickadee allowed me to get a portrait as well.  I don't feel I have a lot of skill at wildlife photography (except maybe bugs) and to really make the most out of wildlife photography you need to have a much longer telephoto lens to allow you to get close-up photos of creatures without getting into their space.  However, the chickadees and sparrows that come to the feeders are more comfortable with people (or at least with my husband and me) and occasionally let me get a decent photo with a moderate telephoto lens.  Here are a few more shots taken in winter of some of our winter residents hanging around near the feeders.

White-throated sparrow (photo taken in December)
Yellow-rumped warbler (photo taken in December)
Every once in a while, I experience a magical moment where a wild bird -- a Ruby-crowned kinglet or a Ruby-throated hummingbird -- will take the initiative and approach very closely for a moment to take a look at me, close enough for me to get a good look without binoculars and really appreciate how tiny and perfect these little creatures are.  Of course, I have never had a camera in hand at one of those moments! This is one of my greatest pleasures in gardening, and the prime reason I garden in the rather lax, wildlife-friendly style that I do.  

Recently I turned up a pair of lists of "garden pleasures" in my gardening notebook.  This was an exercise in one of my favorite gardening books, Pleasures of the Cottage Garden by Rand Lee.  It's called the Ruling Passions Exercise and is meant to help you plan out a new garden.  I have also used it to help me focus when it seems there are just too many things I need to improve.  There are multiple lists in this exercise, but I have my "answers" from only two of them -- I think I had too much fun with these two to ever move onto lists #3 and #4.  The first list is potential uses of your garden and the second is Sensory Pleasures. The idea is to brainstorm a list of all that you want from a garden in these categories.  The book goes on to describe how to work through your list to decide which is most important to you, to focus your gardening efforts on what will give you the most pleasure early on from your new garden.  The garden "use" that means the most to me is attracting wildlife, and one of the sensory pleasures that ranked high on my list is "little birds approaching closely."  I realized looking through this list that I have achieved a lot of what I hoped for in my garden.  This is a really comforting and cheerful thing to think about when it's 104 degrees outside and everything looks a bit wilted and there are weeds I don't have the fortitude to go out and pull.  Little birds aren't the only pleasure my garden has to offer me, either, even now when it is not at it's prime, visually.  Visual beauty of course appears multiple times in multiple ways on my list -- and my garden has some of that too -- but this is not its most shining moment in that department.  In the near future, I hope to post about a few more of my ruling passions and explore what my garden has to offer. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First view of July

It's the start of July and, boy is it hot!  This seemed to happen rather suddenly (although I was in cool Paris last weekend so my perceptions might be warped).  I feel like there is still a lot of gardening to do -- and not just weeding -- so I hope there are some more moderate days now and again before autumn.  But meanwhile, this weekend, it's too hot to go outside for more than 15 minutes at a time.  So, my first views are views from the windows! Visit Town Mouse and Country Mouse for some other garden "first views".

This is the backyard, what I call the butterfly garden.  I said last month that it was just about to explode in Black Eyed Susans and so it has. 
We moved the bench outside the bed just this year.  I originally designed the garden with the bench and a path inside it, but once the plants grew I realized the garden wasn't as big as I thought it was!  Since we moved the bench, we've gotten a lot more enjoyment sitting on it, watching the garden and the butterflies or just reading in the evening after work.  I also spend a ridiculous amount of time staring out the bathroom window at the garden in the morning before I've fully woken up.  The garden is north of the house, so all the flowers obligingly face the house.  

And here is the front garden.  This view is from our guest room.  I actually had this in mind while I designed this garden (although the guest room view was only one of many priorities) but ironically our house guests usually come in the wintertime when there is much less to see.  This view gives an unusual but more complete view of our little patio garden, which was conceived and built over the last few years (with the patio itself being the latest step and just finished last summer).  The fence gives us just enough of a feeling of privacy for me to feel comfortable hanging around out front.  This is the sunniest part of the yard so I really appreciate this garden a lot.