Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sprigs: Crocosmia

The little I've learned about landscaping I learned through trial and error.  First, shorter plants need to go in front, and second, flowers are more effective when grouped, rather than scattered.


Here is a spectacular example of mass planting from a yard in Puget Sound. The bright bed of red-orange crocosmia is like the bull-fighter's cape calling for attention. It's captivating on its own, and stunning as a foreground to the water in the cove.

Although I'm land-locked, I have a lagoon-shaped area of lawn. A bolder border would refresh it. 

What changes do you plan on making to your gardens?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lessons from a Wild Thing

I haven’t been able to identify these little flowers on the internet. They’re not a hybrid gladiola, I don’t think. Probably an uncultivated species.

These little beauties have several admirable qualities, and while trimming the spent blossoms I made some applications to life. 

Although the blossoms are small, they are prolific. One stalk had twelve blooms on it.

First lesson: Even though my contribution in the world may seem small, if I persist, I can make a notable impact. 

They are adaptable to all soil types, and in either sun or shade. 

Second: The more flexible I am, the more opportunities I'll find. 

Plentiful stalks create an eye-catching mass of color. 

Third: My concentrated efforts are more effective than spreading my energy over too many projects. 

Look closely into the salmon colored flower and see the lavender streaks (the anther), like a spray of sparks shooting from fireworks.  It’s an example of a triadic color scheme, three colors (including the green foliage) spaced evenly around the color wheel.  It’s balanced, harmonious, and I think, a little surprising.

Fourth: There's more zest in my life if I stay balanced.

As crazy as I am about these flowers, they do have a drawback--they take over unless regularly ripped up from unwanted spaces. “But they’re so pretty...” my husband says.  When they march right over other plants to the edge of the bed they’ve become a nuisance. (So yank ‘em out, and give 'em to somebody else.) 

Fifth: I need to keep my enthusiasm within reasonable boundaries. For example,  no matter the quality or the motive, unsolicited advice is a weed. 

What aspect of your life encourages you to reflect? Your exercising? reading? faith? What lesson would you share with us? 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sprigs: Lemon cucumbers

The bees have been buzzing between the multitude of little yellow blossoms on my cucumber vines.  I kept looking for tiny fruit to form but could find very few. 

But the conditions must have been just right, because this week I've harvested a couple dozen of the baseball sized, yellow striped lemon cucumber.

Too many to eat fresh, I just started a batch of pickles. They're sitting on the counter right now.

They're delicious, and easy to make. They keep for up to two months, and in past seasons I have added new cukes to the old brine. Thanks to Cathy Johnson from Surry County for the recipe.

In a bowl combine:
6 cups thinly sliced cukes
1 cup each thinly sliced onion and bell pepper
1 Tbsp. salt

Let stand for two hours. Drain and rinse.

Add 1/2 tsp celery seed
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar.

Stir and refrigerate. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sprigs: Weeding

Our front yard. Some things look better from a distance! 

I aspire to have a weed-free, Martha Stewart garden without a the staff.

It doesn't work. 

When I get into the beds and begin weeding, I get frantic, a frenzy falls on me. Speed dispatches deliberation and inevitably I pull up some some little darling.  

A character in a novel is weeding, and accidentally pulls up a flower. She exactly describes how I feel about the mistake:

 "'I can't believe I did that'...(she says) holding it (a small lady's mantle) tenderly, as if it were a pet."

Yet not everyone is hostile to weeds.  Frederick Law  Olmstead, landscape genius who designed Central Park, the grounds of Biltmore House and the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 said, "Everywhere the best ornamental groups that we see are those in which vines and creepers are outwitting the gardner. We can't have little vines and weeds enough."

He must have seen something I don't see!  

Martha's kitchen garden

Thursday, July 4, 2013

If You Give a Bird Some Seeds

*If You Give a Bird a Seed...

We leave out seeds and corn cobs for the cardinal family.
If you give a bird some seeds, he’ll probably leave some behind.

Undoubtedly, a squirrel will eat the rest.

We thought he was cute when I took the photo.

Maybe the squirrel will come back later looking for more, and find the grapefruit rind you left out.

He’ll scrape out every last bit.

Most likely he’ll like that so much he’ll sniff for something else. It could be he’ll twitch his sensitive nose and smell the perfectly ripe peach you left on the counter in the kitchen--next to the window.

He may even jump right into the window box, and if he does, chances are he’ll do anything to get to the juicy fruit--even chew a hole in the screen.

But if he hears you coming, he’ll probably jump right back out again.

In all likelihood you’ll think you’re pretty smart to turn the screen around and put the hole up high where he can’t get to it. 

Hopefully you’ll decide to close the window--just in case he returns.

Which is a good idea, because later you’ll find three new holes in the screen where he tried to get in.

He hoped to find the seeds you put out for the bird.

*Thanks to Laura Nummeroff for her circular stories If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, etc.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sprigs: Bring the Hydrangeas In

Four years ago I planted a hydrangea in hard, clingy, clay soil.  I had to use a  mattock to excavate the hole.

The first year it barely survived.

The second year it added some growth and had one flower.

The third year it filled out with numerous blue heads, contrary to my thin hope.

This year, well, look for yourself. Thrilled with the vigourous blooms I cut a big bouquet. About half of the blossoms shriveled in their vase within a day. 

Then I found this tip online.  For 30 seconds plunge the cut stalks into water that has just boiled. (I poured the boiled water out of the kettle into a jar.) Then arrange them in the vase with cool water. Now they're pert and pretty.