Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Patio is Open For the Season

How to spoil a good shot.  Unless the bottle is wine.

Yes I do windows.  Every one of those sixty little panes of glass.  And that was just the outside.

Cheers!  Today I laughed in the face of 90 plus degree heat to get my patio open and ready for the season.  Sweeping, mulching, all had to be done,  In the spirit of full disclosure I did hop into an air conditioned SUV in search of plants for a couple of hours right after lunch.  Yes it was hot, but I've worked in worse.  At least the humidity was reasonable.  Tomorrow the plan is to get up early and start rolling out mulch, clean the fountains and hopefully get back to work on the front yard grass restoration project.  Once again I'll be battling temperatures somewhere north of 90 but if I can power through it, maintenance mode isn't far behind.

Native corn is officially in season and my goal is to eat as much of it as I can between now and September.  What better way to end a summer day?

Friday, June 29, 2012

If It's Not Mulched It's Not Finished

Freshly edged and mulched garden beds-what a beautiful sight!  One of my favorite aspects of gardening is the sense of accomplishment you get when a project you've been working on is finally finished.  Last night I finally finished edging, planting and mulching my first garden area.  If you're wondering what took me so long you're not alone.  On a recent visit to my house a friend commented on how relieved I must be that nobody had been stealing any mulch out of the pile in my driveway.

Given how much I love progress, one would think I would make more of it.  It's not like I don't try, and don't get me wrong, a good portion of my garden is close to being done.  But it's not mulched and if it's not mulched it's not finished.  I have a thing about leaving the mulch til last because I usually move and plant through June and I can't stand moving and planting in newly mulched beds.  Consequently I end up spreading mulch in much hotter weather than I would prefer. 

So it should come as no surprise that on the weekend I am finally ready to start spreading some serious mulch we are about to enter an official heat wave (three consecutive days of temperatures above 90 degrees F).  Let the good times and the wheelbarrows roll!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hartford County Open Days

My friend Kathy at Gardenbook often blogs about her visits to Garden Conservancy open gardens in the Bay Area and Norcal coast.  As I was sitting on my patio Sunday morning (isn't wi-fi a beautiful thing?) drooling over her latest escapade, it dawned on me that I haven't been to a local Open Day garden in many years.  I used to visit gardens all the time-through The Garden Conservancy, garden clubs and various charities (with the exception of The Garden Conservancy most tours in CT take place in June).  Since June is when I'm busiest in my own garden most of the garden club tours have fallen by the wayside.  What a flimsy excuse.  I'm always busy in my own garden.

Tossing obligation to the wind, I checked the Open Days schedule on the Garden Conservancy website and discovered five gardens open within a 15 or 20 minute drive from my house on Sunday.  What was I waiting for?  I decided to hit three of them-one that was new to me, one I had been to before and one I thought I might have been to before.  All of them opened at 10 AM.  It was already 9:30 so I quickly changed into relatively clean clothes and headed out the door.  A brief rummage through the kitchen catch all drawer produced a booklet of Open Days vouchers tucked into the directory from 2008.  Hmmm...I need to get out more-at least to open gardens.  Oh and maybe I should clean out that drawer.  Put it on the list.

Garden number one was new to me.  The property was lovely and contained some nice natural and hard scape features.  The gardeners were excited and eager to share.  But a large portion of the garden was fairly new and for the most part sparsely planted.   Maybe in a couple of years as garden areas develop and plantings mature I'll have the opportunity to visit again.

Now garden number two...ooh la la!

From the lush plantings, to the incredibly decorated patio, the beautiful and creatively displayed collection of statuary and the lovely brick Georgian colonial home, there was nothing I didn't love about this property.  It was all designed and maintained by the home owners who obviously have excellent taste and impeccable eyes for detail.  Even the hoses and watering cans were artfully arranged.  Usually I'm not a fan of formal gardens but in my opinion the design of this garden strikes just the perfect balance between formal and informal.  I could live here.

As it turns out I had visited this garden once before when it was on the tour of a local garden club.  In conversation with one of the owners I learned that was in 2005.  Sheesh-I do need to get out more.  Where does time go?

On to garden number three!

A sizeable investment has been made in the property and hard scaping of this garden.  Usually a meticulously maintained garden of this size uses some form of outside help and this one is no exception.  When asked how the beautiful river rock edging is maintained, the garden owner told me a crew removes the stone, places it in buckets, weeds and edges the strip, then washes the stone and replaces it.  Hundreds of feet of this edging treatment was located throughout the garden.  Yikes!

However the home owners are very involved in the design and maintenance of the garden, they open for tours frequently, and graciously and enthusiastically welcome all visitors.  The property includes a pool area, rose gardens, perennial borders and woodlands.  My favorite garden is the richly planted shade garden which encompasses most of the front yard.  Flagstone paths meander through tall trees.  Music plays softly in the background.  A collection of sculpture is displayed throughout.  The overall effect is enchantingly cool and serene.

Going forward I plan to keep a closer eye on the Open Days schedule.  Visiting private gardens, especially when they have been spiffed up for tours, is fun and entertaining.  You return to your own garden energized with new ideas and visions.  Although speaking of my own garden, if I want to be able to do any entertaining in it at all this summer, I'd better start spending more time toiling in it and less time crawling through nurseries, restaurants and other people's gardens.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today is my mom's birthday.  If I tell you how old she is she'll kill me.  But since I love old family pictures I will share this picture taken at some point in the 1940s at Duncan Lake in Ossipee, NH where my grandparents had a summer cottage.

In the picture are my great grandparents surrounded by all of their grandchildren.  Mom is in the middle row on the far right.  Her brother, my uncle Don, is in the back row on the far left.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Your Mark! Get Set! Shop!

Every June White Flower Farm has a tent sale on the Friday before the annual open house event.  For a variety of reasons I haven't been to it in a number of years.  My friend Monique, never misses it. In fact, she marks it on her calendar and schedules a vacation day months in advance.  Another friend from my town contacted me this week to say she was going as well.  Hmmm...I was planning to take a vacation day on Friday.  My local friend offered to drive so we went together.  Litchfield is about an hour from my house on scenic roads and despite the heat wave it was a beautiful morning for a ride.

The sale started at 9:00.  We arrived just after 8:15.  At that point there was still plenty of parking and nursery carts available.  A group of die hard shoppers had already secured carts and staked their spots in line.  People kept arriving and long before the opening bell tolled a large mob had formed.  Most were pleasant and chatty (after all these are gardeners) but you could tell there was a group of militants who meant business.  A few people became territorial when asked to move so traffic could get through the parking lot.  Really?

Every year the selection of sale items varies but it always includes both plants and hard goods.  For many the terra cotta pots are the prize.  You need to be quick and have sharp elbows to snag one of them.  Unfortunately a few people with stickers pre-labeled "SOLD", ran into the sales area within the first minute and slapped the sold stickers on many of the largest containers.  My friend was able to get the one she wanted but had to deal with unnecessary rudeness. 

If you ask me the sticker tactic isn't fair and shouldn't be allowed.  I've never understood that take no prisoners shopper mentality.  You would be hard pressed to find me standing in line for hours in the cold in front of a Target on Thanksgiving night.  An altercation over a TV or video game on sale at Best Buy?  Not likely, but to each his own.  For what it's worth we did report the practice to a WFF employee who seemed to agree it was wrong and said they would look into it.

What I came to the sale for was the plants!  Premium annuals were two bucks, perennials four, potted shrubs fifteen and lots of other stuff priced as marked but at a steep discount.  If you've done any shopping at WFF you know the regular prices are not for the faint of heart but even compared to regular nurseries the plants were priced to sell.  And despite the crowd, the supply was plentiful. 

I bought mostly annuals to plug holes in the borders and swap out some container combos I designed that aren't working out.  Eventually I did take a stroll through the hard goods area and ended up scoring a nice obelisk (the larger one from this set) for only $30 and a small Crete pot shaped like a bowl that I plan to plant with succulents and use as a centerpiece on my patio table.  That was $6,

Not a bad haul, eh?

And we managed to pack it all into the car with room to spare! 

No trip to White Flower Farm is complete without a gander at the display gardens.  I love the beautifully designed long mixed border.  So much full season interest using foliage color and texture!

Be still my heart!

Yes, food was part of the excursion too.  Litchfield County is rich in swoon worthy restaurants.  Based on a recommendation from Monique, we took another scenic 20 minute drive over country roads to Woodbury for lunch at Carole Peck's Good News Cafe.  Pricey but great food with an emphasis on local and organic with many vegan options.

Everything I ordered from soup to dessert was delicious including this special fresh peach tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.  

Not long after I got home a cold front rolled through providing some much needed rain and a break in the beastly heat.  More rain this morning but it's supposed to clear up and turn into a nice summer day.  Let's hope so because I've got some planting to do!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dear Zak...

Twenty years ago today I brought you home.

You posessed a magical combination of personality and character. Although your loss was devastating, in your eight short years of life you gifted with me indescribable joy.  So much time has passed.  Long ago the tears turned to smiles.  I still think about you often-especially today.

Maran's Major Zak
April 11, 1992-April 19, 2000

Wednesday, June 20, 2012