lazy, crazy days of summer

As I sit here in my three layers of sweaters, looking out at the wind-whipped cedars and the rain-spangled seed heads, pictures like this one carry me back to summer days of hotly contested croquet games leading up to dinners out under the cherry trees. It is easy to forget the vicious insects who occasionally drove us indoors or, if not, had us scratching and cursing through the night. I must remember to actively appreciate the little gifts each season brings. For instance: with the wind howling outside my window, I am no longer torn between the present (very pleasant) activity and a longing to be out digging in flower beds or exploring the woods. What’s more, the sun will not shine in to reflect off the computer screen, sending me in search of bits of cardboard to block it out so I can go on about my business. Then there are the holidays coming up, with their promise of family and friends gathering around. Life is good.

so pretty … so bad

Just like the female star in an old Robert Mitchum movie, the flower you see here may be lovely to look at, but oh, so dangerous to love. I’m not even sure where it came from…probably a division from a friend who thought she was doing me a favor… as indeed she was, because I was ever so happy to get it. You can easily see why. In fact, this is one of the few specimens that mere acquaintances would beg me to pass on to them. It likes wet feet, so the first several years it was well-behaved (as in not all that happy). As soon as the watering system went in, it’s demeanor changed radically. Before I really cottoned on to its wily ways, it had commandeered every open space and was elbowing its way into Melianthus major‘s territory.

Still, who was I to complain? The spiky foliage created exciting exclamation points throughout the landscape. Then Amy visited, and we took a little tour through the garden. “You do know,” said she, in her tactful way, “that those are on the noxious weed list, because they are choking out native species in boggy areas and near streams.” Funny how a little knowledge peels the scales from one’s eyes. I suddenly saw how these heretofore cherished iris were threatening to overtake the burgundy Japanese maple in the background of the above picture. My first battle was with that clump…I broke two sturdy shovels before Richard came to the rescue with a crowbar and a sledgehammer.

Through the following late spring and summer, I patrolled the remaining clumps and whacked off any stalks with seed heads that were spotted. Any such mission is destined to fail, just because there will always be the odd pod that escapes scrutiny, to spew its progeny far and wide. The new intruders were not that difficult to pluck from the ground, but their ancestors were another story. Out came the crowbar and sledgehammer, and the chain gang got to work. The root systems of these mature clumps had become one with the earth. We soon (well, not that soon, had a mountain of debris. We determined that, should we haul it to the dump, we would probably need to take out a second mortgage to pay the freight. It wound up under a tarp of unsightly black plastic, where we hope it will decompose into something resembling harmless compost.

As fall closes in, thoughts turn to replacements that can take over the sentinal-like, upright, spiky presence vacated by the iris. I’m thinking maybe phormium. By all means, if you have inside information that casts ominous shadows over my new choice, please…please email me immediately and set me straight.

no ghoulery in this garden of earthly delights

I’ve long had a hankering for a Euonymus Bush for my Garden of Earthly Delights, if only for the sly reference to years suffering through darkened auditoriums and slide after slide of obscure paintings in muddy browns. Trouble was, all offerings seemed pretty ordinary. With so many spectacular choices, I could never justify planting a ho-hum tree, for any reason.

Enter Dancing Oaks Nursery. It didn’t hurt that Amy was with me to point out the charms of the fetching hot pink seed pods that, when they burst, sent forth tongues of fire in shades of orange and red.

Euonymus sachalinensis is also known as spindle tree, for the use of its hard wood in making the rods used by spinners and weavers in days of yore (before plastics came along to leach the romance from so many everyday items). The potted-up specimens for sale were, indeed, a bit on the spindly side, but thanks to the massive display garden, mature models decked out in all of their autumn finery cinched the deal.