Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beauty the brave, the exemplary, blazing open

There it is again: peony time. Here, an excerpt from Mary Oliver's meditation on mortality, Peonies . . .

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear Reader

My readership (excluding those devoted Chinese spammers who leave links to porn sites on my comments page--thanks for forcing me to moderate comments, you 人渣!) has probably figured out that despite a change in appearance, the back quarter acre is pretty much growing just the same as ever. But you knew that, right, dear reader?

The price of a bit more blogger functionality was an upgrade to a new template. I'm still fiddling with the details, adding and subtracting features, and cursing my limited knowledge of HTML. Soon it will be time to step back into the garden. Soon, very soon.

Mushrooming compost

I am constantly discovering all sorts of crazy volunteers sprouting in my compost pile. Sometimes, I'm blessed with a serendipitous crop of vegetables but more often, the compost pile is hosting a wayward morning glory vine or a buried butternut.  This morning, when I was emptying the pail of kitchen scraps, I encountered a clutch of ink cap mushrooms (Coprinopsis atramentaria).  

So here is a twist on "mushroom compost": this compost is not a by-product of mushroom production, but compost that produces mushrooms.

Ink caps are edible but, unless my mushroom-loving husband discovers them very soon, these fungi will be forked over in the next bout of compost turning. Since my husband enjoys his wine at dinner and since ink caps induce a hyper-sensitivity to alcohol when eaten--hence their nickname, "tippler's bane"--these interlopers are best returned to whence they sprung.

Which, by the way, is steaming!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lawn enamelling

What is with the Financial Times? I used to associate that salmon-colored daily with boring blah-blah-blah accounts of the coal crisis in Silesia and pork belly futures in Singapore. But then I discovered the weekend edition with its witty writing by classicist-cum-horticulturalist Robin Fox Lane and periodic features about exotic gardens in north Wales, the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show (on now!), and the like.

Earlier this month, Jane Owen wrote about "enamelled" lawns of non-flowering grasses. I have a small space set aside for such a wildflower lawn. In the spring, this area is covered with flowering squills and snowdrops. As their foliage ripens, all sorts of other grassy stuff springs up. Currently, it's at the height of henbit, buttercup, and clover. A mowing in early July brings it back to balance. I love this patch of meadow--but I love boring blah-blah-blah lawns, too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Backyard Baleal

One of the beautiful sights of my recent trip to Portugal was the headlands of the Baleal peninsula. This past weekend, I put together a little reminder of that glorious landscape. Lacking the crashing waves, strong sea breezes, and gyring gulls, I focused my aide-mémoire on the wildflowers that massed over the cliffs.

At Baleal, the rocks were covered with stonecrops, carpets of ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis),

and a dense cover of bird's foot trefoil (Lotus creticus).

So here's my backyard Baleal: a pot loaded with stonecrops and hens-and-chicks. Just add sunshine, strong coffee, amigos de peniche and dream.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Late breaking news

Despite tonight's frost advisory--yes, freezing temperatures in May are part of what passes for spring in New England--the season is actually running about two weeks earlier than usual.

As a result, those fall-blooming plants that are very late to break their dormancy are already in full leaf. This Clethra alnifolia "September Beauty" is covered with glossy chartreuse leaves.

Nearby, Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye Weed) "Gateway" is racing upwards to its towering maturity. This year, I will be following some well-tended techniques to keep the height of this giant in check. Pinch, pinch, snip, snip.

And just about to break are these fat peony buds. Now, that will be headline news!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Amaryllis accounting

Now that the amaryllis blooming period has officially come to a close with the last stalk trimmed back, it's time for an accounting.

Amaryllises, reading clockwise from upper left: Royal Velvet, Temptation, Minerva, Picotee

I lost one bulb to rot after planting (Ruby Meyer 0%). Two of the bulbs were rolled over from last year and bloomed lightly and late (Royal Velvet and Minerva 75% x 2). I need to up my average with a better job of applying half strength fertilizer every other week and summering plants outside. The two new plants (Temptation and Picotee 100% x 2) totally delivered. So about 70% this year--a passing grade.