Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's Blooming!

This is that part of the spring when something bursts open every day, and after three days of rain when the sun came out yesterday the yard filled with flowers. Two pretty additions are weigelas - one is 'Wine and Roses', but I don't recall the name of the other. While they are gorgeous from afar, pictures don't do that justice, so here's a close up of the flowers [not Wine and Roses] - just gorgeous!

Another new addition today is the miniature white rose that came from Aunt Agnes' garden. It's another plant that is gorgeous from afar, but the pictures don't do it justice.

The red yucca continues to grow. I have no idea what it will do next, but surely we will get some blooms in a few days - who knows. Will keep you posted.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Little Project

One of the "problems" or perhaps it's just a reality of the garden is that you can make all the lists you want of the things that need to be done, but little projects jump into your path all the time. The front corner of the house is one of those little projects. Last week we unexpectedly took down two trees - the dying oak in the front yard and an arbovitae that was too big for its location. Unfortunately, both were in the same corner of the yard, and the result of taking them out was to leave a big hole in the landscaping.

It will take a couple of years to replace the oak, altho there is already a group of dogwoods taking on that project. Replacing the arborvitea will be easier - and I mostly did it yesterday. It's rained all week, so when the sun peeked out after lunch I dashed outside and started digging holes. The result is that by dark I had replaced the tree with two holly bushes [Ilex crenata 'Helleri'], two nandina and an assortment of perennials. The hollies are a dwarf variety that is reported to grow 3 x 4 at maturity, with a pretty open and branching growth habit. I used it to continue the line of the existing hawthorns on around the corner to meet the existing nandinas on the side. Then I put two volunteer nandinas behind them on either side of the corner. They will fill in the upper level with fluffy growth - and quickly. At the very corner I planted a clematis [Marie Louise Jensen] with a wire trellis to help if get started up the corner post of the porch. It is a deep purple, so should be very pretty in a couple of summers.

The perennials are a variety of bellis [perennis 'Habanera'], salvia [nemorosa "Marcus"] and Forget-me-Not [Myosotis sylvatica 'Bobo Blue'] all of which grow 6-8 inches tall and a Bugloss [Anchusa capensis 'Blue Angel'] which will grow about 10 inches tall and help hide the old stump. Altogether I put in about 10 small plants which should fill the space by fall - if I keep them watered!

So now the corner looks much better - still way more open than originally, but by this time next year it should be nicely filled in.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Girls' Day Out

A couple of times a year Mother and I get the opportunity to spend the day together doing "girl stuff" - usually running errands and shopping for things she needs help getting, and eating a nice lunch somewhere. Last Saturday was our spring opportunity.

It was a pretty normal day - groceries, a few plants for the garden, a visit with my Aunt Margaret who is mother's only remaining sister, lunch overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, and shopping for bras. Yes, that.

Remember the first time your ma took you to purchase a bra? The embarrassment, the fumbling, the frustration of finding the right size? Well, it's no different when the roles are reversed and the purchaser is your 80-year old mother and you are the fitting expert. Like all of us, she had waited until it was way too late, and there was absolutely no elastic left in the old one. The tag was too worn to read the size and her figure has changed radically in the past few years, so basically we started at ground zero - fitting-wize. All I can say is that Otto Titzlinger earned his money on this one!

The actual finding of the right bra wasn't so hard, it was the change in roles that reminded me of the long term change that is happening. I know that mother needs my help more and more, but this was a rather intimate item and it was awkward to be helping her in ways that I think she probably helped me about 50 years ago.

Later, we visited with Aunt Margaret who is nearly 96, and practically bedridden. Her mind has been in good shape, but this visit she seemed confused and didn't make sense sometimes. For the first time I worried that she may be reaching the end of her run. So, twice in one day I was reminded of the fragility of old age, and of our changing roles as daughters, nieces and caretakers. It's a lot easier to rail against the decisions one's mother makes when she is in charge, than it is to begin to take charge oneself.

Where 10 years ago I would have called Mother to seek her opinion about a health issue, or a job change, or what to plant in my garden, she isn't mentally acute enough now to give those opinions, and it is more likely that she will be calling me to ask advice on medical decisions or financial ones. I'm happy to be available to her, but know what it costs her in independence to have to ask. She is a very independent lady, who wants "to do it ownself" and for whom the worst part of old age is needing to ask for assistance.

So we continue along the bell curve of life. As I approach the top of the curve, Mother is moving steadily down the far side - from weakness to strength to weakness again. So it is with life, and so we all play our parts in this great game of family.

Shopping for the Garden

Spent part of both yesterday and today shopping for the garden. Mother and I had a "girls day out" yesterday and ended it by shopping for plants for both our gardens, which are very different. If you have been following It's My Garden you have figured out that we have more square feet in garden than in grass - Mitchell keeps suggesting new spots for flowering plants! But Mother's situation is quite different. She lives in an apartment in a retirement village and has only a balcony for growing space. She keeps a dozen or so orchids - phals, paphs, and oncidiums mostly - so that she has something in bloom about 10 months a year, but has settled on a large planter on the balcony for her outdoor garden.

She once did cymbidiums, major climbing plants up the porch railing and posts, as well as summer annuals and a few veggies, but now finds that to be too much work, so she has planted a combination of tomatoes and perennials to give her some summer color and a tomato sandwich or two. I took her a mini-rose yesterday as part of her Mother's Day gift. It was a deep, but pale, pink. I knew she already had a cerise mini-rose and thought they would look good together. She also has two mini-daylilies. One is "Happy Returns" and the other is a "red" whose name escapes me - if I ever knew. They are both rebloomers so she gets plenty of blooms all summer.

She has a major Big Box store nearby that has a wonderful garden center, so we ended our day of shopping there. The tomato was pretty easy, since she likes Big Girl. Flowers took a lot longer. We looked at lots of things and ended up with a mini-dalia for her [the rest of her Mother's Day] and a lovely red mandavilla for Mitchell and me - her anniversary gift to us. But I found the prices impossible to ignore and also brought home three campanulas [purple, of course, for the river] and a pretty evening primrose, which is pale pink. It will make a nice accent along the river. Mitchell was a bit appalled when I show up with a car filled with plants - mainly, I think, because it was his car!

Today he and I went garden shopping with different goals. Since we cut down the arborvitae last week at the corner of the front porch, we wanted to get some replacement shrubs so that I can get started with the re-do on that corner. I had wanted some dwarf Indian Hawthorn, but could not find them so we chose a holly that will go about three feet tall by five feet wide. It has a loose growth habit and tiny leaves, and it will only take two to fill the space. I also bought several clematis - two to grow over the stump we just put in the back, one for a trellis in the back corner, and one to grow up the porch railing on the front porch.

We also stopped at the Big Box ourselves. I was so encouraged by the prices I saw yesterday at Mother's store that I wanted to see if I could get some more deals for myself. And, I did. With the oak tree gone in the front, it looks very bare. We decided that we wanted to put a large planter on the tree stump to pull in some color once the azaleas are gone. I found a large plastic pot that looks like terra cotta and was big enough to show up. I filled it with flowering annuals - Gerbera daisies, snapdragons, and other summer flowers. It is supposed to rain tonight, so we hope get the planter watered in well and place it tomorrow. I will probably need to be leveled, so I will need Mitchell's help moving it.

What's blooming today? Two nice surprises. First, some gorgeous pink Dutch iris. Mother gave them to me several years ago for Christmas, but they have finally come into their own. They are the largest iris blooms I have ever had and a nice clear pink. Secondly, a "red" yucca. It has variegated foliage and has begun to put up a "spike" that is a medium pink color. It has never bloomed before, so we don't exactly know what to expect, but this is clearly the beginning of blooms. Will keep you posted.