Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sadness Pays a Visit

Phone calls in the middle of the night are never good news.  But for some reason I wasn't thinking that when I received a call just after midnight Sunday morning from one of my brothers.  Little did I know but the news he was about to deliver wasn't just bad, it was horrible.

I have three brothers.  They are all younger than me but in the true spirit of Catholic families in the 60s, not by much.  My middle brother was calling to tell me that my oldest brother had suffered a massive heart attack sometime after going to bed on Saturday night and had not survived.  What?  Up to that point I had been half asleep but now I was wide awake.

After hanging up, the rest of the night was spent pacing the house or laying awake in bed staring at the ceiling.  Not only was I trying to process the news but I was filled with dread as I thought about the calls I would have to make to both sets of parents.  I had decided it would serve no purpose to call them in the middle of the night.  Let them enjoy one last night of peaceful sleep as it will likely be their last for the forseable future.

Needless to say the past few days have been filled with overwhelming sadness.  I can't seem to focus on anything-not even my garden.  I have been asked to jot down a few memories to be read at the funeral mass tomorrow.  Although I have many I am unable to translate them into words.  Naturally we are all saddened by the loss of my brother Jeff.  We feel cheated out of what we assumed would be twenty, thirty or even forty more years of time together.  And even though most of us go about our business otherwise, on some level we all know that no day on earth is guaranteed.

Jeff would have been 52 next week.  By most standards he died too young, but not if you put it into perspective.  Jeff lived and enjoyed a good life.  He had a chance to fall in love and get married, watch his daughter grow up and enter college, pursue his hobbies, and make years of memories with his family and friends.  Lots of people never get that chance.  Lots.

How many family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or even acquaintances do you know who would give anything, anything to have only had 52 years with their child or sibling, or 15 years with their spouse or parent?  Lots.  Rather than focus on the time we didn't get with Jeff, we should focus on the time that we did.  And be grateful for every minute of that time.

By no means am I advocating that we should live each day like it was our last.  Living that way would be depressing and counterproductive.  Instead we should get up in the morning and look for joy in the little things that happen every day.  Woven together, it's the small joys that make for a full and happy life.  Jeff lived this way and even though our sorrow is deep, it is for ourselves.  For Jeff we should be happy.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

IU10 Day Two Part One-Landcraft Environments

Out of all the places we were scheduled to visit during IU10, I was most excited about the personal garden of Dennis Schrader and Bill Smith, owners of Landcraft Environments, a wholesale grower of tropicals, tender perennials and unusual annuals located in Mattituck.  Those of you who live in the northeast and buy lots of tender plants may recognize their signature HOT PLANTS brand nursery containers.  In my neck of the woods only the more discriminating nurseries stock them.  Every year I buy a ***few***.

A quick google search will show that I'm not the first blogger to visit Dennis and Bill's garden and I likely won't be the last. Pictures don't do the garden justice though so if you ever get a chance to visit in person, jump on it. Last weekend they participated in The Garden Conservancy Open Days.  If my memory serves me this is a once a season event.

From the shady side street, the attractive restored saltbox home gives few clues to the garden within.  Not until you begin to stroll up the driveway to the garden gate do you realize that this is no ordinary garden.  Along the way you pass beds stuffed with artistic combinations of bodacious tropical plants.  Emphasis is on foliage.  Excitement and anticipation build.  This is going to be good!

With the exception of the front of the house the entire garden is fenced to keep the hooved minions of Satan at bay.  Just outside the entry gate was this large tree draped in a cloak of Hydrangea petiolaris with a supporting cast of shady characters at it's feet.

Window boxes were overflowing with a creative medley of tender plants.  Oh to have a commercial greenhouse filled with tropical treasures at one's disposal!  
Once inside the gate we gathered in this impeccably maintained courtyard overflowing not only with plants but with attention to detail.  
Details like this playful mixture of foliage against the garage wall.
Sun drenched deck and patio areas created the perfect stage to display succulent collections.   
And if the garden wasn't fabulous enough, check out the house.

I loved the house. 
L-O-V-E-D the house.
Anyone relaxing on the covered back deck is treated to this long view of the garden.  In the distance is a garden area Dennis and Bill referred to as the controlled meadow. 
Flanking the lawn on the walk to the meadow are more beds chock full of tender and tropical plants.  A chilly, wet spring and late start left these plants sulking a bit in mid June but come August I imagine this garden is just an explosion of color. 
Bill and Dennis couldn't have been more generous and gracious with their time and knowledge.  Our group consists almost exclusively of zone pushing plant geeks who couldn't have been more appreciative.
Bill talks plants with part of our group
While Dennis leads the rest of the group through the meadow
Not too many roses make me stand up and take notice but this huge purple rambler got my attention.  Unfortunately this picture does not do it justice.  Weather conditions were beautiful for this trip but the clear sunny days made picture taking a challenge.  Most of mine came out overexposed to a point where no amount of photo editing could recapture the actual details.


Succulents in containers lurked around every corner.  I've just recently begun dabbling in this genre of plant design.  Fortunately for me I don't have all that much sun or interest to tend to plants indoors because I could see how quickly collecting these could become an obsession.

One of the many garden rooms we encountered throughout the three acre garden.
The Tiki House was an unexpected surprise in the middle of the garden.  At this point I would have been perfectly content to declare that it was noon somewhere and crack open a bottle of wine but we still had places to go and gardens to see.

Yes, we're still on Long Island.
What better place for a bunch of plant geeks to spend a beautiful summer morning?  Even if this garden was the only one I visited during the trip I would have gone home happy.  Thanks so much Dennis and Bill!  Please keep stocking CT nurseries with your Hot Plants.
And what better way to conclude a swoon worthy garden tour than some good food.  Following Dennis and Bill's suggestion, we had a delicious lunch at Love Lane Kitchen in downtown Mattituck.  Once again I have to give kudos to a restaurant for efficiently handling a group of 12 on such short notice.  Timing is everything though and we usually try to eat on the early side of mealtimes.
Since I've already rambled om long enough, I'm going to save the second half of this day for another post.  With four bloggers on this trip, good coverage was guaranteed.  My friend Deanne posted her take of the Landcraft garden weeks ago and although we probably took some of the same pictures, hers are infinitely better than mine.  When I took a looked at the calendar and realized over a month has passed since this visit I was honestly floored.  Life is so much about too much to do, so little time, isn't it?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bloom Day-July 2013

How did it get to be the middle of July?   Due to company and Idyllunion prequell activities, and much to my dismay, I was unable to participate in June Bloom Day.  In the interim, the weather has been challenging to say the least.  For the past couple of weeks in central Connecticut we've been dealing with heat waves, tropical levels of humidity and frequent extreme weather that has included tornadoes, damaging winds, severe electrical storms and deluges of rain.

So far my garden has not suffered any real damage beyond some minor erosion.  Keeping up with weeds has been a losing proposition especially since I never finished the mulch.  As I write this, we are currently in day two of a six or seven day heat wave, our fourth so far this summer.  Heat indexes are expected to exceed 100 degrees F every day this week.  For a variety of reasons I am not a fan of air conditioning.  In New England we spend winter months cooped up in the house hibernating from the cold so the last thing I want to do is spend summer months cooped up in the house hibernating from the heat.

My seventy plus year old house does not have central air conditioning.  A living room window unit keeps the first floor cool for the dog when necessary.  By keeping the house closed up during the day and by making strategic use of blinds, awnings and fans I can usually manage to keep the house comfortable.  Usually.  Not this year.  Over Fourth of July weekend I finally broke down, rummaged through the attic crawl space and fished out another air conditioner for the second floor den/exercise room.  Now I'm spending way too much time in the house for comfort and I feel like I'm living in a cave.  When can I open the windows again?

So what does all this have to do with July Bloom Day?  Absolutely nothing.  I just wanted to rant.

Usually I don't take many pictures of my front garden.  For the most part it's a hodge podge of low maintenance and reseeding plants.  Dry soil and little to no supplemental care or water create growing conditions that are challenging at best.   Besides spring and fall cleanups I do try to get out there somewhat regularly to weed and deadhead.  When it comes to plant selection, I let the plants choose. 

Time to thin out the Echinacea.  In the background is Persicaria polymorpha.  After a few failed attempts to dig it out I gave up and now just try to keep it from flopping in too much shade.

I have no idea where these Stargazer lilies came from or how they've survived the onslaught of lily leaf beetles but since they have I need to treat them with a newfound respect.

A very old plant of Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine' and a very large plant of some reseeded Tradescantia.

A reverted seedling of Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine' and some reseeded Echinacea.  In the lower left, Dianthus 'Firewitch' was a new addition this spring.

Abelia grandiflora and Cotinus act as backdrops for the Echinacea and lilies.

Smoke on the Smokebush because I neglected to cut it back this year.  At it's feet is an ongoing garden renovation.  The Hydrangea just finishing up is 'Bluebird', a beautiful serrata.

Speaking of Hydrangea, what a year it's been for them!  I keep telling myself not to buy any more but they are very hard to resist.  For the first time deer browsed many of the flowers on my Hydrangea quercifolias this year.  By the time I realized it was happening a few had been nipped back significantly.  Damn those hooved minions!

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Amethyst'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lemon Wave' is a first class foliage plant.

H. paniculata 'Quickfire' is sporting unusually huge flowers this year

One of my favorites-H. serrata 'Preziosa'

H. 'Endless Summer' has been a reliable performer for me.  Not so for everybody apparently.  Many of my garden friends have removed them for lack of blooms.

H. serrata 'Woodlander' finishing up after a gorgeous display

H. paniculata 'Dharuma'

A few "new to me" Echinaceas found their way into the garden this year.  Usually I don't fall victim to the newest cultivar-especially when it comes to Heucheras, Echinaceas and especially Coreopsis.  'Sombrero Salsa Red' was a total impulse buy that I posted about HERE last summer.  I'm happy to report that it came back strong unlike my 'Hot Papaya' which after three successful seasons is now just a shadow of it's former self.

Echinacea 'Sombrero Salsa Red' with Campanula 'Sarastro'

'Tangerine Dream'

'Coconut Lime'

Old reliable and long blooming 'White Swan'

Some miscellaneous items that caught my eye.  Much of my garden got ripped up and replanted this spring and many of those plants don't look like much this year.  Lots of holes don't make for good photo ops.

One of my favorite annuals-the dreaded Ricinus.  Twerpster in a hurry in the background.

I just love these cheerful Rudbekia hirta 'Prairie Sun'.  They are not reliably perennial so I buy a few plants every year and treat them as annuals.  If they come back I consider it a bonus.  The Coreopsis is 'Mercury Rising' supposedly a hardy red.

Lysimachia clethroides 'Geisha'
Cornus kousa 'Wolf Eyes'
Oxydendron arboreum

Hemerocallis 'Moonlit Masquerade'
Hemerocallis 'Indian Giver'
Clematis 'Jackmanii'
Naturally the containers have been providing alot of color.  Tropicals love the heat and humidity.


A few wide angle shots.  The heat has been keeping me from regular dead heading and maintenance chores so things are a little rough.  If the weather cooperates I hope to have everything spiffed up again soon.

Thanks for visiting.  To see more of what the garden world has to offer, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!