Thursday, May 31, 2012

That doggy in the window

I just had to go outside this afternoon and take a picture of one of the petunia blooms.

It's just the deep and velvety purple I dreamed of. Then I stepped back and took a picture of the whole barrel -- honeysuckles on the trellis, petunias in the barrel, lavender in the terra cotta pots.

Wait...Do you see something in the window there, to the left?

Then I took a picture of this little sign my sister gave me for my herb barrel. I picked up a pretty stand for it the other day.

Wait...Do you see something in the window, at the top of the picture and to the left? What is it?

Oh, it's... most devoted friend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The robin I wrote about a week or more ago, who was building a nest, has mated and they are sitting on eggs in the nest on the drainpipe under the upper deck. I realized this weekend that they were living there, and I am trying to give them their space, although I also really would like to look at them. This evening I came to that side of the deck, just sticking my fingers into each hanging pot to see if the soil was moist, and when I got to the pot where I could see the nest, I snuck a peek. Mother Robin was in the nest, very still, but I could see her eyes. As soon as our eyes met, she burst out of the nest and flew into our pin oak where she sat chirping loudly. I came back in the house almost immediately, so I trust she was not too disturbed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Painted sometime between
1596 and 1600
by El Greco (1541–1614)
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:1-4

Indoor blooms

My African violet is blooming.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Phew! Saturday afternoon

And this was my Saturday afternoon project. I emptied the pond, cleaned it, filled it with water, set up the fountain, and turned it on.

Tinkle, tinkle,
little man

Ta da!


A number of plants are blooming.

The honeysuckle is opening up. When they are closed buds, they are purpley-pink, but when they open and curl out, the inside of the petals is white.

The petunias are showing some tightly furled buds. You can tell they're purple. They'll open up shortly.

My dad's strawberry plants have lots of blooms. I hope he gets plenty of strawberries to enjoy this summer.

And these begonias are just such a vivid red that they fascinate me.

Small beginnings

While I was watering, I took pictures of these two plants as "before" pictures.

Lemon balm

I've had these plants for years and never had to buy new ones. Every winter they die back to pretty much nothing, the merest glimmer of a leaf when I first look into the pots in spring. But every summer they fill the pots completely and require regular and ruthless chopping back to keep them a decent size. They are just very aggressive growers.

Peppermint, in particular, I've read, is very aggressive, and I've seen advice never to plant it in the ground unless you're willing to eventually have your whole flower bed and perhaps your whole yard become peppermint. I have two pots of peppermint. The other one is already quite well-grown and did not require a "before" picture.

Aaaah, Saturday morning

A delightful Saturday morning on the deck.

I had a cup of coffee (which I drank before taking this picture), Jane Austen's Persuasion, two little plants I need to plant (needlepoint ivy and portulaca, aka moss rose), and a glass of water.

Yes, I realize my water glass bears the images of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig; all my other glasses were in the dishwasher. This is my oldest glass, a hand-me-down from a college roommate. It has survived -- perhaps through rarity of use -- while at least one other full set of glasses has come and gone and been replaced.

It was mighty warm in the sunshine on the deck. My dog was panting. The shallow dish behind him is his water dish and he did have access to the shade, which he later took advantage of.

My French lavenders were drooping their pretty heads in the hot sun. A little while after I took this picture, I watered all my plants, including these poor dears.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Robinz in the 'hood

The robins do not appear to be using the nest on my deck to lay eggs and brood on them, but one does keep coming around. Yesterday this fellow sat on the retaining wall and chirped a lot. He didn't seem too worried that I was behind him on the deck. Another robin is across the yard, near the bird bath. Perhaps he was warning her against the large featherless biped behind him.

I tried to zoom in for a closer picture, but every time I zoomed my camera gave me a "low battery" signal and shut down.

Isn't that always the way?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things I've planted lately: shady side

Pale pink double impatiens surrounded by golden creeping jenny (lysimachia nummularia "aurea"). I did find a home for the dark pink impatiens I so impatiently (har) bought earlier. Ideally, the creeping jenny will grow in long, flowing strands over the edges of the barrels and produce little yellow flowers. Some years that happens, some years it doesn't. Most winters, a few creeping jenny survive but I have to buy a few more in the spring to fill in the spaces. If I see it again, I may buy a little more yet. I would like it to be lush.

Fuchsia, times four -- that is I have three more hanging baskets like this one. Each has four fuchsia starts in it. They were taller, but the lady at the nursery advised pinching them back so they would grow thicker. Hopefully these will also grow long and trailing and produce blooms. I think the blooms will be pink and white.

Red begonias around the calla lily. These beauties are already blooming. I trust the calla lily will eventually do the same.

White petunias with purple bacopa in a hanging basket, times two. The begonias in the second basket are not blooming yet.

For a while I always put red begonias with white bacopa in these two baskets. I did that last year then, on a different trip to the nursery (perhaps a different nursery), bought six more red begonias for the 1/2-barrel with the calla lily. The half-barrel stands near these hangers, and it turned out the hanging and the barrel begonias were two different red hues -- one was noticeably oranger than the other. They were all beautiful, but they did not harmonize. I'm not super-concerned with grand effects; I just buy flowers with pretty colors and don't necessarily try to create a scheme, but that clashing was too much.

There are fuchsia colors I've had in the past that I like better than the ones I bought this year, but this particular variety (called "Lena") was healthy for me, grew well, and didn't get bugs, so I'm going with it again this year.

Things I've planted lately: sunny side

Although it was not a sunny day when I took these pictures, this is the sunny side of the deck.

Six pots of hidcote lavender. Also, in the 1/2-barrel with the trellis (honeysuckle, a perennial), I've planted petunias, and in the furthest 1/2-barrel, with the contorted filbert tree, I've planted verbena. Neither are flowering yet.

Two pots of lavandula dentata and, in the brown pot on the white stand, lotus vine -- which will trail over the pot and get gorgeous flaming blooms. In the green pot are "volunteer" pansies; i.e., I did not have to buy and plant them, they "just growed."

One pot with two colors of callie or calibrachoa. They get pretty blooms, as you see. I've seen them described as "mini-petunias"; they are trumpet-shaped, like petunias, but smaller.

Two plants I forget the names of. I chose them because their small leaves and blooms are in scale with these small pots. I bought the small pots a year or two ago because they have a fleur-de-lis on them.

Dappled things

Last week, I enjoyed dappled sunshine on the deck.

Pied Beauty
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                  Praise him.

Published 1918.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Borne back ceaselessly into the past

So, I see that they're making a new movie version of The Great Gatsby.

Casting looks okay. The director, Baz Luhrmann (birth name: Mark Anthony -- Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears), is best knows (to me) for his movies Romeo + Juliet -- the Shakespeare play rendered in a modern city -- and Moulin Rouge!, which I never got around to seeing.

I did enjoy Romeo + Juliet. A friend of mine thought the modern setting destroyed the romance, but I thought it helped get the play's message across. It was an anti-violence play, and if we romanticize the men engaged in swordplay we lose the message that their violence was evil and wasteful.

I don't at all swoon for Leonardo di Caprio, doubtless because I am too old for him.

A few weeks ago, Ann Althouse referenced The Great Gatsby at the end of a post, and I followed her link to the text online. Part way into the second chapter, I remembered the overwhelming reaction I always have to this literary masterpiece: Dang, this book is depressing.

The new movie looks interesting, though. In 3-D, too yet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Astrological wonders

Yesterday there was an annular eclipse, in which the moon blocks the center of the sun, and the edges of the sun shine around it. Here in Northwest Washington, it was just a partial eclipse, but we had heavy cloud cover and rain and so couldn't see it at all. It did become dark during the eclipse. I had forgotten all about it and when I went to walk my dog thought the weather must be particularly gloomy until I remembered the eclipse.

Where I live, it's oven cloudy while magnificent wonders are happening in the heavens. It makes certain decisions easier. For instance, if there's going to be a lunar eclipse or some special alignment of planets late at night, you wonder, should I stay up late to see it and be exhausted at work the next day, or just go to bed and miss some spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime event. When it's cloudy, you just go to bed. Easy decision.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The robin

This morning a robin was fluttering around my deck again with grass in its mouth to build a nest.

I never can tell if it's the same robin coming back over and over again or if they come and go. Either several have started nests or one has started several nests on a section of drainpipe under the upper deck.

Just a little wad of grass on the left-hand corner of white pipe was there when I went outside this morning.

The robin watched me from among the branches of the pin oak tree.

He's right in the center of the above picture.

Then he flitted over to the support beam and peeked down at me.

Uh, oh.... The plot thickens.

The cat was certainly aware of the robin's presence. Right at this crucial juncture I had to leave. I was gone from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Guess what? This evening, there actually is a nest on the drainpipe. I had to use my flash to get a picture of it.

I scared a bird out of the nest when I approached. If it abandons the nest, it might be for the best. I potter around with my flowers right in that area fairly frequently, and if that is too much traffic, then the birds had best build elsewhere. On the other hand, it would be fun to watch baby birds. I will just follow my regular routine and let the birds decide. A few years ago a robin built a nest in this same location and never used it.

The other thing is, I would think that a highly motivated cat could reach this nest. So I think the birds should nest in a safer spot. I understand from several anecdotal sources that robins are often not very smart about where they build. Maybe that helps keep the robin population in check.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Found it!

Today on my way through Bellingham I stopped at the Garden Spot. The one thing I had on my list was a hook-extender-thingy. You know: you hang it on a hook, then you hang your hanging plant on it, and that way your hanging plant hangs lower.

Do your plants hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Does everyone still know that song? It goes:

Do your ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you throw 'em over shoulder
Like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears hang low?

But then you can substitute other body parts for ears.

Anyway. I got it for the hanging basket of strawberries I put upstairs for my dad.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yes, we have no lavandula dentata

Well, shoot. I went to Hi Hoe Nursery this afternoon and they don't have any lavandula dentata this year, although the lady there was impressed that I knew the Latin name of the plant I was seeking. I did buy some begonias -- red and white, bacopa -- pale purple, callie (aka calibrachoa) in purple and red, and a couple other little plants.
I'll keep an eye out for lavandula dentata as I visit other nurseries in the area, but I'm not optimistic. Here are the nurseries I go to:
Every one of these places is charming to visit and full of beautiful plants and garden paraphernalia. It's a veritable embarrassment of riches.

Not so wimpy

The Wimpy Catholic has been on a roll lately, and I wanted to look at someone (you, dear reader, as Charlotte Bronte might call you) and point out his bon mots to someone who might also appreciate them.

On May 4, 2012, in Mark Shea and the Gay Saint:

LGBT issues have a special place in my heart for a very personal reason: to this day, I’m amazed I’m not gay. My being straight seems like a terrible oversight on somebody’s part. Unathletic, expressive, creative, quick to tears and worshipful of my mother, I’m a total nance whether you want to quote Jung or Bensonhurt folk wisdom.

On May 7, 2012, in In Defense of Tattoos:

I got my first three tattoos in the space of five months, when I was 17. It took me only a few years to recognize that every single one of them was cheesy enough to spread on a Triscuit.

On May 10, 2012 in Life After Sex?:

Of course, there’s more to chastity than not shacking up with someone. If you’re a woman, chances are good I’ve seen you naked in my mind’s eye. (Quit worrying — you looked fine. Skeletons are for Halloween.) I learned this trick when I was 14; by now it’s a reflex. How unfortunate, then, that Jesus found this kind of thing so loathsome that he proscribed it by name when preaching on the Mount.

Max Lindenman, the author of this blog, wins my admiration for being so open and honest about himself. It's an oddity of my character that I like to blog and yet I really don't want to open my heart for public scrutiny. Like Holden Caulfield, I don't want to go into all that David Copperfield kind of crap, or give myself or anyone connected with me two hemorrhages apiece because I told anything pretty personal about them. Hence my tendency to write about my flowers.

Although I do love my flowers. That is for real.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hello mudda

'Twas the night before Mother's Day and all through the house things were pretty ready, except for food preparation.

Tomorrow I host our traditional Mother's Day lunch, so that none of the moms in the local family have to do any of the work.

I had really hoped to have more done on my deck, especially since the weather is supposed to be gorgeous tomorrow. I wanted to empty out the pond, clean it of the winter's scum, fill it with clean water, and set up the fountain. That is a several-hour job. Perhaps if I had not had a hair appointment today I could have gotten it done. But I did have a hair appointment, and I didn't get it done.

Let us not repine. Even if the deck is not set up, it still will be beautiful weather and a lovely family get-together. They don't call me "Pollyanna" for nothing. (Actually, no one calls me "Pollyanna.")

And my hair looks nice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Soft in the evening

I sat outside for little while in the cool of the evening, and it was delightful

Eventually the evening became a little too cool, and then I came inside.

I so wanted to find a nice video of people singing "His Sheep Am I," but I could only find some good instrumentals or some less-than-professional-level singing. Some even less than others. If you know what I mean.

So I opted for a nice piano version with the words shown so you can sing them in your mind.

At least one typo ("fair" should be "fare").

We sang this in my Bible study in San Jose and I loved to hear the men's and women's voices on their different parts in the chorus. I'll just have to remember it in my mind's ear. I loved in that Bible study that the leader called us "brothers" and "sisters." "Now the brothers sing; now the sisters." There really is something beautiful about loving each other as brothers and sisters. It's tender and -- why should I be embarrassed to use the word? -- pure. (Something's very wrong when we can make off-color remarks with a hard face but we're embarrassed to mention purity.) To love as brothers and sisters is tender and pure and sweet. I recommend it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Less busy

I accomplished less today than yesterday. I did dump some old pots of dirt and roots that were on the deck. I put all the pots on the retaining wall to clear the way for sweeping the deck. I swept part of it.

This evening I am tired. A friend of mine in high school used to say, "My get-up-and-go got up and went."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Busy, busy

Today I shifted a lot of books from bookcases in my bedroom to shelves in a room I'm turning into a library. I almost said "repurposing," but that sounds like design show jargon.

And I planted some of the plants I bought yesterday. I dug the old rosemary out of the herb barrel and planted it in the ground, where it looks rather deformed, as it had been growing over the edge of the barrel. I planted the new rosemary in the barrel.

I planted four petunia starts in the barrel with the honeysuckle.

The blooms on the honeysuckle are progressing. They look purple; I'm excited for when they open. The petunia blooms should be purple as well. That really is my favorite color. Some years I get seduced by other colors and last year by a variegated purple and white. But I really love that rich, velvety dark purple color. Which you can't see yet, since they haven't bloomed.

When the honeysuckle and the petunias are blooming, this should attract hummingbirds, since they like trumpet-shaped flowers.

I planted the geraniums, with the bacopa between them. You can't really see the bacopa yet. It will trail out as it grows.

I decided to keep this under cover yet tonight, as I think it will be cold again.

I planted the calla lily. I am trusting that it won't freeze; this is only partially under cover.

Later I'll add begonias all around. I hope the calla lily thrives and blooms. It's so striking to have the bright begonias and then the stately lily rising out of the middle with the pure white bloom.

Here is St. Frances with the saxifraga next to him. It has overgrown its pot but it seems to be doing fine. I got it as a tiny start for free a few years ago when Hi Hoe nursery was giving them away.

This past Christmas, my folks gave me this little bird bath. I put some water in it today and placed it where I could see it from indoors if any birds come patronize it.

I hope it's sturdy enough to bear a bird's weight, if a bird does come. Otherwise, it will serve just as a pretty ornament. I could put pretty stones or shells in it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So it begins

After the beautiful weather the last two days, it was a pretty morning, but, as the day wore on, it clouded over and cooled off. The weather site I looked at indicated it could actually reach freezing tonight although right now, at a little past 9:00 p.m., it's still nearly 60 degrees.

Today I prepared an application packet for a job and drove it to downtown Bellingham to drop it off. I predict, on the basis of past experience, it will bear no fruit whatsoever, but I have to try. Since it's dreary to work on and special-deliver an application for a job you probably will hear nothing further about, I promised myself the treat of stopping at Bakerview Nursery on my way home.

Over the years, I have developed traditions of where I buy which flowers. At Bakerview, I buy double impatiens -- primarily because that's the only place I find them. Flowers have fads; they seem to go in and out of fashion. Some years ago, I could find double impatiens starters anywhere. Now I can only find impatiens. Even at Bakerview, they don't have much selection of the double version, and no starters. I had to buy a big hanging pot with far-developed plants in it. I will split them up between the two 1/2-barrels by my pond, where I traditionally plant double impatiens in the center with creeping jenny growing over the edges.

I also occasionally buy lavender at Bakerview. A lot of local nurseries have only lavender varieties I don't like as well, like Spanish. I like to get English or French lavender. Today I found hidcote, which I hope will be pretty. I don't have to buy lavender every year; it often overwinters for a year or two. What I have in pots from last year was already not at its best last summer and looks pretty dead right now, so I am going to throw them away and plant new plants.

(Every year I look for the lavendula dentata, which has the most beautiful scent, at Hi Hoe Nursery. It never overwinters; I have to buy it every year.)

Most years I buy some zonal geraniums for my folks' deck at the Lynden Christian Schools plant sale after attending the fundraiser pancake breakfast, but this year I was out of town that weekend. Usually, I pick out some hot pink or salmon colors, but today I bought two traditional red (or at least it seems traditional around Lynden) geraniums and one white, which I will put in a window-box type of planter that will sit on the rail of the upstairs deck. I use bacopa to trail out of the pot, but did not find any at Bakerview so I stopped at Ace Hardware on the way home. They did not have any white bacopa, which I would have preferred, so I bought a light blue variety. Last year the LCS plant sale had no white bacopa either, so perhaps that too is going out of style.

I used to try to use lobelia as a trailing flower, but it always died on me. Bacopa seems to be hardier.

I decided to replace the rosemary in my herb basket, so bought a starter. The rosemary currently in the pot is living, but it is overgrown and has long leafless stems before getting to the leaves. Not attractive. Because I have a hard time just dumping a living plant, I will probably transplant the old one to the west side of the house, by my kitchen window. Maybe it will scent the evening zephyr. The last two years I planted lavendula dentata there, but I think I'll grow that on the deck this year.

Finally, I bought four strawberry starts (two varieties) and a hanging basket to put them in. I am going to make a hanging basket of strawberries for the upstairs deck and hope it produces fruit for my dad to enjoy. He loves berries. Last year, at the end of the season, I saw a hanging pot of strawberry at the Gardens at Padden Creek. I thought that was ingenious, as all summer I had been cutting off the runners they kept throwing out. In a hanging basket, the runners could just hang. I'm not sure if I'll put all four in the hanging pot or have more pots.

Oh, and I also bought a calla lily. I like to put a calla lily surrounded by begonias in one corner of my deck. Several years, the calla lily bloomed over and over, and the last two years it died. I am trying again. If it does thrive, it's so pretty.

Since it was late in the afternoon and getting cool (with a bit of wind) when I got home, and since there was a chance of frost, I left all the plants in my car in the garage. I cracked the car windows, so they would get cool air, but even if it manages to touch 32 degrees outside in the small hours, I don't think it will freeze inside the garage.

This Sunday is Mother's Day, the day after which frost danger is supposed to be over around here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunshine and perfect companionship

Today, in the cool of the evening, I went out on my deck to sit and enjoy looking at the yard in the late afternoon shadows.

No rain clouds in the sky, no stiff breeze chilling me. Just a perfect temperature and calm air.

And the perfect companion.

Yesterday, I was out on the deck in the morning, with the sun lighting up the yard.

A cup of coffee, a book, and, again, my beloved companion. A perfect moment.

I love to see him enjoying the sun.

Laer in the day, he could be found relaxing in the sunroom upstairs.

He knows how to enjoy life, and he helps me enjoy it, too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A day of rest

I shall learn to rest.

Last week I read Judith Shulevitz's book The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time and under its influence decided to turn off my computer all day Sunday. The fact that I found this difficult to do and keep doing convinced me that it's a good thing to do. I need to have a day without instinctively coming and sitting in front of this machine for hours.