Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hey, lookit here!

"Hey lookit here!" That was the type of ungrammatical declaration that set my mother's teeth on edge. She knew her gerunds, participles, and infinitives, and she simply would not bite on that verbal formulation.

But I couldn't contain my ungrammatical enthusiasm when, back home from my various travels, I found a crop of ripe grape tomatoes.

Here's the first haul from my accidental vegetable garden. Definitely not an heirloom or exotic hybrid--just whatever generic variety was selling at the local supermarket back in the spring. Two pint boxes at $2.99, perhaps?

Grammatical or not, we've been sinking our teeth into them. Delicious!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Will work for cheese

This past week, I vacationed on the Vermont shores of Lake Champlain. We stayed at the perfect place for any garden lover, the Inn at Shelburne Farms. This Gilded Age estate is sited on a bluff with the lake to one side and fields and forests rolling out to the other. The landscape, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, is disorientingly beautiful, with wide sweeps of meadow swirling around islands of woodland. Rises and swales conceal and reveal views. See, I get a little loopy just talking about it. What's the horticultural version of Jerusalem syndrome?

In front of the Inn, a formal mixed garden is terraced down to the lake shore.

What is so wonderful about this garden is its simplicity: just an array of familiar flowers--ageratum, salvia, sedums, coneflower, phlox--perfectly tended and pleasingly positioned.

Even the stakes have a certain simple elegance.

On one level, a rose garden, bound by a brick wall with the lake beyond, is filled with hybrid teas and floribundas. If I hadn't been so overcome by the setting, I'm sure that I would have a better recollection. But that's no way to experience this garden.

In addition to the Inn, the Farms host an organic vegetable garden and a dairy that produces its own farmhouse cheddar. So now I know my dream job. If I could tend that lakeside garden, no salary is needed. Will work for cheese.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why it's called a raingarden

How, you might ask, has the raingarden been handling this wet, wet summer? Absolutely thriving. During a recent sunny interval, it was strutting its stuff. Yes, that's water from a recent shower pooled along both edges. This near end with the blue flag irises is definitely damper than the far end that's anchored by Joe Pye weed. An underground stream keeps this corner wet even without rain.

Okay, the shape of the bed is rather too angular and plants look young. But after all, they are just getting their feet wet this first summer. I'm simply pleased that it is possible to grow something flowery in such a damp, poorly drained place. Only one plant hasn't flourished--my mallows are just a blink bigger than when they were transplanted back in May. A few more leaves, perhaps, but not much taller. A purple lobelia might be substituted next summer.

For height, I have to rely on this Joe Pye weed "Gateway." Like a gangly teenager, it's a little scrawny now but should fill out just fine. I'm ready to push this experiment further.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lawn sports

Last month, we had over twice the amount of our average rainfall. We are already one-third of the way through August and two-thirds of the way towards reaching this month's average rainfall.

Mushrooms sprout in the wet lawn. Everywhere and all the time. We mow them down and more pop up. It's a round robin game that has us racing to keep up.

With all this rain, it's difficult to find good weather for other lawn sports. We've had to perfect our badminton blocks, lifts, and drives by watching the Olympics. But some clearing of the clouds is predicted for the next few days. Smashing!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seed season

It's the seed-collecting season. The biggest yield always comes from larkspur. By harvest time, the dried stalks are a real eyesore--parched, dessicated, and leafless. Shaking the seed heads into a paper bag catches most but not all. Those that fall free will sprout next spring.

After replenishing the bed with cow manure, in go a slew of annuals. Well, one annual, just a lot of it. Agastache "Color Spires Orchid" should carry along this corner of the garden into early fall.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lotus land

On the road: pools of luminescent American lotus Nelumbo lutea afloat in Sandbridge, Virginia.

Happy sunshine!