Saturday Snapshots

I have a new vegetable garden! Last spring, at the outset of pandemic lockdown, I planted two temporary raised beds of vegetables, partly to make sure my family had fresh produce in case of store shortages, and partly as a mindful, calm activity to soothe myself and get outside. It was very successful but it quickly overran the limited space I had and became more of a vegetable jungle than garden! It was also awkwardly positioned near the site of a huge tree stump that we hadn’t yet removed, which limited my ability to reach into the beds.

So this spring, we hired a local group that specializes in “edible landcapes”, who removed the temporary beds and the massive stump, and built two long, narrow raised beds with a path between them, and a trellis arch made from cattle fencing to support squash, melons, and maybe some runner beans. Here it is, with only a few plants in place yet:

New raised beds, April 2021

My goal is to post a snapshot weekly of the vegetable garden’s progress. Wish me luck! And please share in the comments any advice you may have, or any updates you’d like to share about your own gardening adventures!

“The Invisible Garden of Scent”

Noted gardener and garden writer Ken Druse has published a delightful piece in The New York Times this week on incorporating scent and fragrance into one’s garden. It follows the publication of his latest book, ““The Scentual Garden: Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance,” which won the top honor of the American Horticultural Society for writing, in March. He calls the scent dimension of horticulture the “invisible garden” — not seen, but sensed as a key element of any garden’s appeal and design.

My garden holds many of the plants he mentions; right now, the most fragrant ones in bloom are the roses and gardenias. I also grow rosemary, mint, and basil — all very aromatic, and useful in the kitchen.

I have so many gardening books that I haven’t bought a new one in years, but I may have to make an exception for this one, given how much I love both gardening and fragrance!

Have you read it? Plan to read it? What are your favorite fragrant flowers, and which do you grow at home?

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Climate Confusion

It is mid-February, and we have experienced temperature swings from the high 20s F to the low 70s F in less than two weeks! We’ve also had a LOT of rain. My garden is so confused, as are all the gardens in my neighborhood. Winter blossoms are still flowering (hellebores, mahonias, winter annuals like violas, pansies, dianthus, sweet alyssum), spring bulbs are opening (hello, daffodils!), and confused vines, shrubs, and trees that normally flower in March have decided to start blossoming early (Coral Bells azaleas, Clematis armandii, and Magnolia soulangeana).

Clematis armandii in bloom, March 2019
Clematis armandii, mid-March 2019.

 

Of them all, the only ones that I fear will suffer from the upcoming frost are the saucer magnolias, whose fragrant pink flowers will likely turn brown and drop. So sad, as they are one of my favorite trees and they scent the air with an incomparable fragrance! I hope some of the magnolias in my neighborhood will hold off long enough to provide abundant blossoms after next weekend, when we expect another frost. I don’t (yet) have a saucer magnolia in my own garden, but if/when I plant one, I will try to choose a later-blooming variety as well as a more compact one. Any suggestions?

Blossoming pink saucer magnolia
Magnolia soulangeana; mid-March 2019.

Daffodils, overnight!

Cicely Mary Barker, The Daffodil Fairy, www.flowerfairies.com

We had a very warm couple of days but then the weather turned gray, gloomy and cold again, with only a sprinkle of snowdrops and one lone narcissus up to prove that I had in fact labored long and hard to plant dozens of new bulbs for this spring. Imagine my delight, then, when I got up this morning to find three whole patches of early daffodils in bloom!

I love daffodils — they may be my favorite flower, inching ahead of hyacinths, roses, and even lilies of the valley. I’m always so happy to see their brightness against what still looks like a wintry, though snow-free, landscape. Do you have bulbs coming up yet? What are your favorites?

Featured image: The Daffodil Fairy, by Cicely Mary Barker.

Fragrant Flowers

I’ve neglected blogging for a few reasons, the most important of which is that two friends of mine recently experienced sudden deaths in their families, one a husband, another a young adult son. As a result, I was going to memorial services and receptions, and creating flower arrangements for one of those. The bereaved widow is Asian-American, born in Hong Kong, so I did a little research into appropriate flowers. The main thing I learned is that one CANNOT use the color red, and white is the most appropriate color. One can combine it with touches of blue or yellow. So off to Trader Joe’s I went, because they have beautiful bunches of fresh flowers ready to be arranged, and also potted orchids for reasonable prices.

I was very pleased with the final result: one big arrangement with lots of fragrant white Oriental lilies, pale blue delphiniums, and green Bells of Ireland for the main table, and several potted orchids to put on other tables. I also used white evening stock and a softer form of eucalyptus than one usually sees, both very fragrant. In the face of death, one feels so helpless to do or say anything useful. Providing the flowers helped.

After my bout of flower arranging, I started planting the MANY bulbs I bought a couple of weeks ago. I love spring bulbs, and I always buy and plant as many daffodils, jonquils, and other narcissi as I can. Some go in the ground; some go in outdoor pots; some go in pots that I will force indoors. One of the reasons I love these flowers so much is their fragrance. I also cherish their bright colors and graceful shapes. One of my favorites is “Thalia”, a graceful jonquil with white flowers that almost look like orchids. Another is “February Gold”, an early variety that returns reliably year after year in my garden. Its cheerful yellow flowers are a sign that spring has arrived, though they don’t appear as early as a wonderful daffodil, “Rijnveld’s Early Sensation”. When I’ve had that in my garden, it has started blooming in late January. Marvelous!

Assortment of dry flower bulbs.
Flower bulbs

So I’ve been very, very busy, though not without fragrance. I’m also now quite stiff, having spent hours on my knees, trowel in hand. I have many more to go, so wish me luck! My son helped me replace some half-dead azaleas a couple of weeks ago; thank goodness, I was able to find the same old-fashioned variety (“Coral Bells”) at our local state farmer’s market, because they are part of a gorgeous hedge of pink azaleas. You can’t find it at retail nurseries any more, but there is a nursery supplier at the farmer’s market who always has them. Whew! Have you been doing any fall planting?

shallow focus photography of pink petaled flowers
Photo by Claudia Zuidema on Pexels.com

More Signs of Spring

Blooms of lily of the valley or muguet

The first lily of the valley blooms have emerged in my garden, in the last days of March. I love lilies of the valley but they can be hard to grow here in Zone 7, so I’m delighted that these have decided to return. They emit one of my favorite fragrances, the inimitable “muguet“.  Do you grow lilies of the valley? When do they emerge in your garden?

‘The Generous Gardener’ rose is one of my favourites. It requires some discipline not to list its selling points, even after so many years, but I’ll confine myself to observing that it is one of the more fragrant English roses, best grown as a short climber against a wall or sturdy pillar. That hardly counts, […]

via ‘The Generous Gardener’ Rose (Plus A Riff On Leaves) — Susan Rushton

I love David Austin roses, I love Susan Rushton’s photographs, and I love this rose, Generous Gardener, in particular! Enjoy Susan’s post — I am reminded that my own roses are in need of some TLC this Labor Day weekend, so I’ll sign off again.