future beauties

The dahlias beside Richard’s studio had been in place for four years, so I thought it was about time to dig up at least one of them. All of the tubers you see here came from one above ground plant. We had a number of freezes during the winter that we are having a hard time putting behind us. Expecting a cluster with many gone mushy from the cold, I was surprised to find nothing but plump, healthy, yam-like tubers in a cluster of about three feet across. Every article on dahlias calls for digging after the first frost. When I did that, they did not overwinter well…so I am going my own way here. The mud ball I unearthed required a lot of hosing, prying and more hosing, but I finally had about four dozen individual tubers of varying sizes. I spread them out to dry for a day or two. The size of the tuber is said to be immaterial to the size and vigor of the resulting plant. I potted up a few of the smaller ones, just to test out the theory. A few of the big ones went into the fence line border. The rest will go into a basket, free for the taking, when I open the garden for the first time Sunday next.
Lots of people “in the know” find dahlias garish and tasteless. Not me. In late summer, when things are looking a little tired and dusty, along come the can can dancers with their flirty skirts of many colors. They alone can hold their own in the harsh August sun and heat, and oh, what dramatic bouquets! This is one gardener (vulgar, perhaps) that could not do without dahlias.
I will keep you posted on the ongoing experiment.

custom flag flying

The Linnton Condominiums had flag poles across the roof line, left over from the days when it was a schoolhouse. When Ellie bought two Spinnakers from me to put in her front planter, she feared that the condo association would ask her to remove them for the sake of consistency. Instead, they decided to utilize the abandoned flag poles to express themselves in some way. There are pirate flags, Canadian flags…you name it. Ellie and Brad decided to commission me to design theirs. The fine old building looks out over the river toward the sunrise, and I know Ellie is fond of Color with a capital C, so I took that as my theme. Here it is, caught in motion, and below is a shot I took of it tacked up on my deck to show the full design.


When I had the sad task of going through my mother’s things, I found drawers, baskets and boxes filled with literally hundreds of snapshots, polaroids and slides of what must have been every bouquet she ever put together. The odd thing about them was that she never bothered to set the stage for these creations. At the edges of each shot would be scraps of paper, dirty dishes, whatever just happened to be lying about. Of course she didn’t have the convenience of digital, with its instant replay and Photoshop. I understand the impulse. Whenever the elements come together to make a nice composition, my instinct is to capture it in time.
I’ve already told you how cuckoo I am for rocks. My kitchen windowsill is filled with a nice assortment gathered from my daily walks (my normal route is nearly picked clean by now). When I was casting about for a tiny container for violets, I stumbled upon this highly textured pitcher. Our dining table is black lacquer. The runner is handwoven in many shades of earthen colors echoed by the rocks. I love the play of color and texture, and the one white violet(no scent) tucked in with the common purple. I found great swathes of the white violets under the cedars. In the four years we have been here, I had not seen them before. I am shamed by my lack of observation.
Hillary (my daughter) commented that I should have saved all of Mom’s pix and turned them into an art installation. What an idea…their slap-dash quality would have given a unique twist much more interesting and ‘avant garde’ than my merely pretty efforts.

march blooms

This Ribes placed itself at the corner of our house, right behind a ‘Point Defiance’ Rhododendron. The first year we had the Rhody, the two bloomed together, in shades of the same pink. The small clusters of deep pink florets on the native currant complemented the large, open petals shading from medium pink to nearly white on Point Defiance to perfection. I was so excited (and this from a person with little affinity for pink). It never pays to get one’s hopes up…the two have never again graced us with that perfect duet. As these buds begin to unfold, the buds on its ersatz partner are still clenched into tight fists. What do you suppose: they had a lovers’ spat? one felt upstaged by the other? they’re holding out for a better contract? I sure do wish they would work out their differences.

I love the way so many blooms start up tightly curled, then unfurl and straighten as the petals (or in this case, bracts, open). This Euphorbia wulfenii is still in the early stages of the process. I must remember to check it out every day if I am to appreciate the many stages of beauty it will go through before, in mid-summer, it gives up the ghost and asks to be put out of its misery.

tete a tete
The dainty tete a tete daffodils are the first of the narcissi to bloom for me. Every year, I buy a pot or two of them to enjoy on the breakfast table. They cheer me up no end. Once they have performed that service, I add them to the growing colony under the cherry trees.

My hellebores seem late. They are just beginning to bloom, though I have been seeing patches of them in others’ gardens for some time now. I’ll take what I can get…maybe I will still have them when their earlier cousins have passed.

The evergreen clematis has been threatening to swallow the deck. Richard strung wires on the underside of the plastic roof, and the vines are clambering along them with great vigor. These first blossoms are responding to the extra warmth and light. By next month the outer blossoms will have burst forth. I will have to show you another picture, then, of the overall effect when the whole front of the house is engulfed in blossoms and scent. Sweeping up the mess they leave is a small price to pay.

The aconitums are new this year…tiny bulbs resulting in tiny flowers. The flowers are very like buttercups, but the collar of spiky leaves sets them apart. I am told that they will multiply…hope so.

lounge lizard

Last year, I ordered two of these lounge chairs for Richard. He is a tall, long-legged guy, so they don’t work for him at all. When I looked into returning them, it turned out the cost of the shipping was nearly equal to the original price. So much for the convenience of online shopping. I don’t mind too much, because they are so handsome, strategically placed on the lawn. Sammy obviously finds them comfy enough. She is such a diva…always placing herself in a spot and a pose where she shows off to best advantage. Had we allowed her personality to fully develop before naming her, we might have called her something more fitting: Nefertiti, maybe?