Monday, August 28, 2006

Garden Angel

I should have this garden angel dressed in a rain slicker! It's been so unseasonably cool and rainy for the past few days. A mild 63 degrees with gray skies. Feels more like Seattle than Lincoln in August. Sure hope this doesn't mean we're in for a brutal winter. I'm not quite ready for fall!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Summer Wind

The summer heat is back with a vengeance. The cooler, damper days of early August are all but a faded memory. It's 95, windy (when is it not windy in Nebraska?) with thunderstorms brewing on the horizon. Too hot & humid to go for our pre-dinner walk. Guess we'll just have to suffer and have a cold drink out on the deck.

*This photo is not from our property, but rather from my brother & sister-in-law's backyard. Looks like something out a Willa Cather novel.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Within My Garden

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel—
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill—

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose—
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted—
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres—
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, 'twere we—
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity—

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye—
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly.

"One must have sunshine, freedom,

and a little flower."

Hans Christian Andersen

Photo courtesy of Rod Scher

Friday, August 18, 2006


The dandelions and buttercups
gild all the lawn; the drowsy bee
stumbles among the clover tops,
and summer sweetens all to me.
J.R. Lowell

Couldn't find any dandelions or buttercups, so this'll have to do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Endless Summer

It's pretty hard to get excited about my garden these days. The grass has patches of brown that I'm trying to ignore. Most of the perennials are finished blooming, leaving the annuals and shrub roses to carry the burden of pleasing the neighbors. Fall seems so far off, although a few bulb catalogs arrived last week tempting me with their glossy pictures, and I can almost imagine the scent of burning leaves (does anyone do that anymore??) and the grumbles of my husband as he hangs Christmas lights before the first snowstorm of the season (which has occurred as early as Halloween). I've been trying to decide what might improve my spring beds, scratching notes about possibilities and dreams for that area next to the garage, and jotting down ideas for hostas in the shade bed alongside the house.

During this lull (when I know should be weeding, deadheading, and watering), I find myself flipping through Flower Gardening in the Hot Midwest: USDA Zone 5 & Lower Zone 4. The author (for whom I worked very briefly in her independent bookstore here in Lincoln) has some marvelous ideas and thoughts on gardening specifically in our area. I especially like what I read this morning, feeling as if she'd been eavesdropping on my recent thoughts:

Gardens are easiest in spring and early summer - young, tender, sweet, moist, and effortless. Weeds are mere seedlings, rain is adequate, diseases haven't yet gotten a foothold. This, too, is when many of the most beautiful flowers bloom - delicate, profuse and fragrant... The garden is a delicate fairyland. It seems a paradise and you are in love with it. This is passionate young love when happily-ever-after seems not only attainable, but a lead pipe cinch.

Phase two - reality - hits around the end of June. "I've sort of lost interest in my garden," I heard someone say in July. Well, no wonder. It isn't all roses anymore. The weeds are up, the leaf miner has ravaged the Aquilegia (columbine), and mildew has overtaken the Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox or wild sweet William). Summer heat has struck the Midwest with its full blast, requiring endless watering. A gap in bloom between the spring flowers and the late season ones has made the garden seem a wasteland. This is midlife crisis with a vengeance. The strong light of a summer day reveals the garden's every flaw. Autumn will roll around with cooler temperatures, renewed rain, truer colors shown under the sun's angled rays, and mature love will reap its reward. Staying power is the key in the midseason garden. Staying power means keeping on top of routine tasks like watering, weeding, and deadheading to see the garden through the heat of the summer.

OK, I can do this. Staying power. How hard can it be? Water, weed, deadhead. Water, weed, deadhead. With rainfall exceeding the normal monthly totals and more precipitation predicted for the next three days, I'm in pretty good shape. At least I don't have to worry about mowing. I have my own personal yardboy!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

To Bloom or Not To Bloom...

That is the question this gardener has pondered for the past few months. What is it that causes a plant to do so well, producing a reasonable amount of blooms during its youth, only to rebel (much like a teenager?) and stubbornly fail to produce one measly bud or blossom during its adolescence? Neither my hydrangea or rhododendron bloomed this year and I haven't a clue why.

I'm not what you would call a sophisticated gardener. I know what I like and I either dig a hole and plop the plant in the ground or I pay a landscaper an outrageous amount of money to do the same. Both of these shrubs were planted by two separate landscaping crews, so at least the blame in that particular part of the process does not involve me.

So what gives? Too much shade? The southeast portion of the front yard has more shade than it did a few years ago, getting only a couple of hours of sun in the morning.

Too much water? The rhoddy is on a small bank that gets some run-off from the neighbor's yard, but it isn't boggy (however, we do have a lot of clay in Nebraska). The hydrangea is frequently watered by hand, but certainly isn't getting too much.

Too hot during the summer, in spite of the shade? The hydrangea is fairly close to the A/C unit and tends to get hit with the hot air that comes off the fan.

Not enough fertilizer? (Or any, says she, guiltily hanging her head over her negligence.)

I don't really even mind if the hydrangea flowers are pink or blue. All I want is a huge, bushy shrub with profuse blooms like the ones Mom and Bill get on theirs (but of course, they live on the Oregon coast where everything looks absolutely gorgeous!).

photo courtesy of Bill Sachs

And to top it off, my stella de oros failed to bloom! These are hardy, need-no-pampering-or-attention perennials that ALWAYS bloom. Not this year. They produced buds, but before they had a chance to bloom the bud and stem turned brown and died. The plant looked fine, but something caused the blooms to fail. I'm pretty sure the problem with the lilies lies in their current location. When we dug the bed in the front yard, I thought it was getting quite a bit of sun. But the crabapple has branched out so much so that the flower bed in question gets very little direct sunlight. Definitely need to relocate these lilies to a sunnier home. (Make note to self for fall project.)

As far as the other two troublemakers, either I do more research

(perfect activity for those long, cold wintry months) or I pack up all our belongings and drag my hubby to the Pacific Northwest. Gee, I wonder what he'd vote for. ;)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

Yay!! Almost 2" of rain in the past 24 hours. It rained through the night, but it really poured this morning, reminding me of the storms in Texas. Flooded streets, overflowing gutters, and the sky so dark it felt like the middle of the night. Now the sun is shining, birds are splashing about in the birdbath and it's a pleasant 84 degrees.