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!

Magnolia x soulangeana — Susan Rushton

In the world of home decor, magnolia is a best-selling colour that outlasts every new craze because it is so easy to live with, but its biggest fan would not call it exciting. On the inside of the loose, cup shaped flowers held on a magnolia tree, the sheeny colour has all the allure you could […]

Magnolia x soulangeana — Susan Rushton

Photographer Susan Rushton captures beautifully one of my very favorite trees, the Magnolia x soulangeana, sometimes called the “saucer magnolia” or “pink magnolia”. It is highly fragrant, as she notes. My college had an open plaza where one entire side was planted with them, and they had grown to an impressive size. When they were in bloom, you could walk through the plaza (or sit there) and receive gusts of their floral perfume.

We have several that grow in our neighborhood and they are spectacular. I’ve never been able to find a created fragrance that captures what they smell like in real life. But Susan’s photos absolutely capture what they look like. I can’t wait for them to bloom in my neighborhood every spring!

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.

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?

Saturday Snippet: “Transplanting”

Assortment of dry flower bulbs.

I don’t post nearly as many Saturday Snippets as I used to; that was something I started when I was housebound, healing from a broken shoulder and unable to garden. But I have just discovered a poem, “Transplanting”, by Lee Ann Roripaugh, and it took my breath away, especially the fourth section:

4. Dalmatian
There is an art to this. To shish
kebab the varnished pit of avocado
on three toothpicks above a pickle jar
of cool water, tease down the pale
thirsty hairs of root until one sinewy
arm punches up and unclenches its green
fisted hand, palm open, to the sun.
To discern the oniony star-struck
subterfuge of bulbs, their perverse
desires, death-like sleeps, and conspire
behind the scenes to embroider
the Elizabethan ruffles and festoons
of their flamboyant resurrections.
To trick the tomatoes into letting down
their swelling, tumescent orbs
in the cottony baked heat of the attic
until their sunburnt faces glow
like round orange lanterns under
the crepuscular twilight of the eaves.
Unwrapping the cuttings of succulents
from their moist, paper-towel bandages,
and snugging them down into firm
dimples of dirt and peat, coaxing up
the apple-green serpentine coils of sweet
pea with a snake charmer’s song to wind
around the trellis and flicker their quick
pink-petaled tongues. The tender slips
of mint, sueded upturned bells of petunia,
and slim fingers of pine that pluck
the metal window screen like a tin harp
by the breakfast nook where my father
stirs his morning coffee and waits
for the neighbors’ Dalmatian to hurl
itself over the back fence and hang,
limply twisting and gasping on the end
of its chain and collar like a polka-dotted
petticoat, until my father goes outside
and takes its baleful kicking weight
in his arms and gently tosses it back
over the fence into the neighbors’ yard.
Year after year, the dandelions
and clover are weeded out, summers
come and go, and roots stubbornly inch
down around the foundation of the house—
labyrinthine, powerful and deep.
Wow. If I could write one line like this:

“To discern the oniony star-struck
subterfuge of bulbs, their perverse
desires, death-like sleeps, and conspire
behind the scenes to embroider
the Elizabethan ruffles and festoons
of their flamboyant resurrections,”
I would consider retiring my pen, content that I had done my best.

Assortment of different Dutch flower bulbs
Dutch flower bulbs

Featured image from http://www.dutchgrown.com.