Thursday, July 28, 2011

Morning in the Garden

"The sun is but a morning star."

Henry David Thoreau

Food. Water. Nesting. Shelter. It is the welcoming spirit of this garden. We may know what is likely in bloom when the sun rises next. What shows up and where is a delightful appetizer to the day. Earlier this month I found this goldfinch asleep on the fountain head. 

 This morning's oriole must have loved his visit earlier this year for he doubled back so late in summer. 

Kumquats for jam, basil for pasta and kumquats

God began all time in the garden. The freshly risen sun is good company to steer the day, menu and decorations by.   

The green and white glass is pulled like a spearmint stripe up the Murano vase. A few branchlets from the kumquat tree escorted by scented geranium leaves- the small footprint of this arrangement can will grace a small corner space with charm.

Ancient mariners steered across hostile oceans, guided back home the the evening stars. The California suburbs being a tamer place and time, I only need one star to guide my day- the morning star- the sun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love at First Sight

 "It's not like love at first sight, really. Its more like gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly its not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her.You become whatever she needs you to be. "
~Jacob Black

It was at Hortus Nursery in Pasadena that I first spotted the rose 'Lillian Austin'. Her blossoms sat like an English hat on a slender 5 ' tall trunk. Informal  blossoms with swirls of  gossamer peach and tangerine over carnation pink- I imagined hummingbirds dipping into Lillian as lovers would sip a blended tropical drink.

 There was no question Lillian and I would get along. At first sight I knew I had to have her. What I did not know was how this shrubby headed  English beauty would change my life.

At the time I believed life was best lived like it is printed on an accountant's ledger. Strictly organized. Budget before all else. So my desire for her was put on "the list", to wait her turn to be added to the garden.  

Only Hortus went out of business and in 2001 it was not so easy to find another nursery with such splendid taste.  Several days locked in my study with fingers dialing where the Internet suggested I search, I found Otto and Sons, who had been the supplier to Hortus. 

Now that I knew where she was there was the issue of distance. Fillmore is 69 miles from my Diamond Bar garden.  That would be a very long way for 2 tree roses to travel in my compact car. Which they never had to suffer because a very kind neighbor told her trucking-company husband- and he added a stop.

My almost missing an opportunity to have her build a relationship with the garden as a whole  made me appreciate her even more. All 4 of her. As her color and personality bring out the best in whatever is her companion, my garden features two standards and two decidedly shrubby accents in the mixed borders.

Now Lillian is not a constant bloomer, but a consistent one.  When this mild- maintenance babe is in bloom, she is the center of attention.

Perhaps the most important lesson Miss 'Lillian Austin' taught me is that  when you think you are in love- jump. When I left her waiting after our first meeting in Pasadena,  I was very fortunate to have found her again. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pain ~ Pleasure ~ Memories

Requiem. In Latin- Missa pro defunctis. In English-The celebration mass  for the repose of the soul. 

I have taken a few days off to compose my thoughts on current events.

Oslo, Norway. My husband was assigned there for an extended period. We would go 3-6 weeks without seeing each other. One Friday, just before an anniversary, Gerry called to ask

"Would you like to meet me here on Monday?" 

You betcha.

Someday I shall write about the beauty of the country and its people. For now, I wish to say

The terrorist last week claims to be a Christian. I heard a noted journalist proclaim that because this person (whose name I will not honor with publishing) says he is a Christian, we must take him at his word. What pure perverted poppycock. NO. It dishonors those of us who see God as the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Ghost- to let a mass-murderer implicate our faith.

Borders Books and Music ailed for a very long time. A former employer, the formerly venerable business struggled for at least a decade to "find itself" in the Age of Not as strong in customer service as Barnes and Noble and not as cheap as, what Border's excelled at was mediocrity. Unfortunate for the fine employees counting down to hoped-for retirements they worked very hard for.

My niece Vicki - she was hospitalized with complications of diabetes. Thank you God, that she is better.

Now, please move with me from the pain of last weekend back to where we left off with a family celebration centered on the Aquarium of the Pacific

I loved reading the names of major donors. Among the names- British Petroleum and Boeing.  I know it is popular to demonize large corporations. But corporations are like people-  in prosperity, capable of great good.

The sea anemone filled me with the same child-like wonder it did when I on a family vacation near the  Oregon Sand Dunes .  Could it really be nearly half a century since I first poked my  finger into the center of one ? I remember being totally enchanted. Fortunately my parents noticed the tide sweeing in. A few more minutes alone playing in the tide pools and I would have been cut off  on a hillside with pine trees, wild shasta daisie and not much else, except maybe bears.   

Gerry- look at how relaxed he is feeding the manta rays? He was always the wise one in our family. He didn't just make a living- he made wonderful memories for me and our children.

 Gerry and our guests were enamoured with the sea creatures- I am a lady of the land. The tile mural and fountain-  Rios de la Vida (Rivers of Life) is an amazing piece of interpretive sculpture.

Then it was off to celebrate the summer birthdays at George's Greek Cafe.   The Pine Avenue location has a patio- and some of the best service in California.  Before dinner, our waiter brought us some bottles of wine to sample

 Happy Birthday to Chet and Anka of Portland Oregon

 Happy Birthday to Shannon and Kenny Plunk of Huntington Harbor, CA

With 6, we ordered one of the Family Style dinners-where you can order more plates of favorites. One course is Saganaki- Battered and Fried Greek Kasseri Cheese, Flamed at the Table with Brandy, Finished with Kalamata olives.

Saganaki is as delicious as the presentation is spectacular.

The Future- If tomorrow never comes, we had this day. God willing, we shall have more good times together. And if fortune smiles- with our oldest son, Trevor able to celebrate his summer birthday with us, too.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perfection found in Imperfection

"Pray as if it all depends upon God, for it does.
But work as though it all depends upon us, for it does.
~St. Ingactious of Loyala

Is the wisdom of the Spanish Knight and Patron Saint of Warriors ever truer than in the garden?

Monarch butterflies are almost omni-present in my hillside garden. But yesterday was like every day in the garden. Different in detail. 

Yesterday, the first Swallowtail butterfly appeared dancing  from flowerette to flowerette of blue- blooming agapanthus. Through the floppy trusses of the beguiling clusters of pink and white 'ballerina' rose, the agapanthus balls  are  a fairlyland floral display shooting into the sky, tethered to earth by just long green stems.  
'Julia Child' buds break open  the color of egg yolks beaten with sugar and butter. 'Cinco de Mayo' lipstick summer shade.
 The perfection of my garden is not in perfect order, it is in perfect love.

There are moments when I know all is as it should be. When I know why I spend time on bended knee, simultaneously in contemplation and work. This garden is the ultimate collaboration. Between the Gardener and God.

Swallowtail image courtesy of Gene Sasse

Monday, July 18, 2011

Aquarium Therapy

“Don't grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.”
-- Michelle Held
Marine mammal show
Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.
-- Ada Louise Huxtable

 "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."
John F. Kennedy
Preparing to feed the Manta Rays
Niece Anka and husband Chester with Gerry preparing shrimp to skewer

These are just a few images from our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
More to follow later in the week...

Images of me, the marine mammal and below water creatures by Gerry Plunk

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Blooming Blog Day- GBBD July 2011

 Welcome to the July garden walkabout. The most intense feature of the summer garden  this week wasn't a flower...

Backyard Coyote
Coyotes are handsome animals. If you see one, the best thing you can do (for him and you) is not make him feel welcome. Jump. Shout. Make like a crazy person.   As one unfortunate family in Diamond Bar found out this week- use extreme caution in installing doggie doors.  

At the curb- Evelyn is aging gracefully. She's fussy about wanting attention. When she gets it- in the way of regular water, fertilizing and grooming- she rewards with the purest scent of rose reaching up to heaven- the angels lean over to inhale. I like to think the walkers who pause in front of her are doing so also- but I suspect it may be the second steepest street grade in Diamond Bar that is more responsible for them needing to catch a breath.
Stephanotis (Madagascar Jasmine)
Angel Face Geraniums grown from cuttings.
The twin stephanotis vines reaching to hold hands above the front picture window are late to bloom this year- defining better late than never. If the Jehovah's Witness ladies only knew- they would deliver their pamphlets at dusk- when the bridal bouquet favorite begins to scent the air. 
Daylily 'South Seas'

Daylily 'South Seas' is the most vibrant hued daylily in my collection. Picked up at the Kellogg Ranch  Cal Poly Farm Store last year- one more year of sturdiness ought to  create some blooming magic as her tangerine blossoms are set off by a backdrop of purple wands of blooming  Mexican Sage.

In the backyard-

The miniature rose doesn't mind that we've lost her name tag.
The staggered heights of Meyer Lemon, Rose of Sharon and Albizia Julibrissen (Silk floss) trees offer welcome shade

 The tomatoes are finally the color red of my mother's favorite lipsticks: fire engine.
The patch of strawberries have yielded two bowls of fruit in just this week.

There is more to share. Please come back to see!

Coyote image by Gene Sasse. Used with permission

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Romantic Memories

"Some things don't last forever, but some things do. Like a good song or a good book or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there."
-Sarah Dessen
 $7.96 read the sign by the grocery store mums. Their blooming faces radiating joy in shades of peach nuances blended with mauve overtones, each shade more interesting together than alone. It is magic: the one 6" plant perfumes the dining room as though a dozen  arrangements decked the walls.The olive green cache pot, originally from Blue Hills Nursery, was passed between my mother and I for over a decade.
My gilt edged blue notebook comes out with wine. I like to record what a wine tastes like, what food it would best pair with- and the story it tells.
In my wine journal Roederer Anderson Valley Estate Brut does not have a page of its own- it has a life of its own.

Ill never forget my first time: with Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut. We were dining on the patio of  Spencer's on The Mountain.  I was 50 years old when the first drop touched my lips, but I was 21 again when the glass was finished. 

Over the years, it is on a pedestal in my memory bank as simply the most seductive beverage ever to touch my lips.  Even more so when enjoyed at home, sipped from the vintage Franciscan 'Royal Spendor' cut crystal goblets that I began collecting in high school. 

That is, until this weekend, when my daughter-in-law introduced me to an even more powerful love potion. It is quite simple-

Pour the chilled bubbly not quite to the goblet top. Finish filling with a generous shot of peach schnapps. 

Life should be romantic, by design. Some things should last, like good sofas and sturdy marriages. Other things should be sweet for the tender surrender to time. Brought out to share with intimates over dinner, their scents and tastes calligraphy on our tablets of our hearts .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Garden is Child of Art

Nothing is more the child of art than a garden- Sir Walter Scott

Alex held the vase and pointed where to clip
Alexander Chavez -when he grows up- will he garden like a child with a box of crayons on a sheet of paper? What impression of the family day will outlast his childhood? 

Will it be the scent of the old German rose, the sneeze-inducing feverfew daisies? We tried to scurry some up, but the bunnies didn't come out to meet Alex. However, the Monarch Butterflies  wings sailed the unseen currents, skimming back and forth where ever there was open sky.

Will it be our barking dogs?  Our Chihuahuas understand small dogs and big people visitors- but they had trouble getting their brains around the "shrunken human." ):-

The Day Before, Mother Nature added her own touch of smoke

Art conjures emotions from all our senses.The air quality was painted with concern the day before. I almost cancelled an interview  from worry the wind would kick up. But I decided to have a friend monitor the situation for me. Any chance this fire would catch a flight here on an ash, and I was turning back home. The fire across the ridge Brea was contained to 380 acres, staining the sky with a film of gray soot. 

So much for the lunch on the patio plans. It was fine to visit  in the morning hours  before  Alex's entourage was all assembled. But inhalers at the dining table is not the visual I look to create.

Me with my sister Gina and our niece Anka- the lizard on the back wall is not related.

  Anka and husband Chet were visiting from Portland. This brought my sister down the hill from Apple Valley. Which enticed Krsista to bring Gina's grandson. Gerry managed lunch off. We're a small family with branches widely scattered across the United States. Rarely do many of us pop up together.

We changed our plans from al fresco to The Mandarin Taste. One of Diamond Bar's oldest dining establishments with fast friendly service and American-style Chinese food.  Old Timers may remember when Ken's Ace Hardware did business here- but that was a long time ago, when town progress was measured in street lights.

It's been double-time at the office. This is a fun story you may enjoy where current events that gave me a great excuse to call Ruth Stueve. Remember the great love that was hers and her husband's. Click on over and enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Garden Wisdom

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad"

Dirt du jour  had that perfect tidbit on the daily wake up.

Fruit salad is even more delicious when displayed on handcrafted pottery

The tomato crop is rather late. Only the grape-style minis clustered red before independence day. Lanky, I ran lengths of tie-wire to the eave above where they rambled and tied them up to a height even with my eyeballs.

The green coated wire is the world's cheapest tomato trellis
We are expecting grapes any moment

Unless the local residents beat us to them.

Grape vine, agapanthus and birdfeeder. A chain-link fence disappears.

Not that we mind the competition from the birds. Squirrels, possums, raccoons- now those critters conjure different emotions. Although not as evil as what I think of Mr. Coyote- who has been stalking the neighborhood for the past few weeks. He's gotten way toooo comfortable wandering about all hours of the day and night, nosing around places he doesn't belong, doing things which might be natural, are still anti-social.

Lavender, Santa Barbara Daisy, Aeonium 'Kiwi' and Rosa 'Joey' re-define this 'hell-stip' into a friendly welcome

Last Saturday, in the broad daylight of our street, Mr. Coyote decided to take a dump right in front of one of the neighbor ladies. If our dog's can't do that without our getting fined- the coyotes shouldn't be able to either.  The Los Angeles County Agriculture Department was contacted yesterday- they called back this morning. It looks like Monday the trapper will be out.  

We got very lucky the last time the Chihuahua went nose to nose with the Coyote. A moment's hesitation by the young male had Gerry in hot pursuit with a nasty sharp-edged shovel. I don't expect Mother Nature to cut us a break like that again.  Worse- what if his next nose to nose is with a young child?

Diamond Bar is in the news for not so flattering reasons.  A Ponzi scheme where three local ladies used the Armstong PTA to meet victims, making the parent's organization as much a victim as the regular folks. Not that this is apparent from headlines written to rope in readers. Then there is the alleged illegal "hostess bar"  set up in our residential by someone overstaying a tourist visa.

These headlines remind us that my city is not heaven. However, this community is still as good a place to live as the world holds.

The knowledgeable remind us the coyotes were here first. The wise understand that when peaceful co-existence is threatened, it is right to put human life first.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer, The Mid-life of the Year

New flag celebrates my passions- Country and Garden
"No bought potpourri is so pleasant as that made from ones own garden, for the petals of the flowers one has gathered at home hold the sunshine and memories of summer, and of past summers only the sunny days should be remembered.

Eleanor Sinclair-

The borrowed view of neighbor's gazebo through agapanthus blossom
 Dear Eleanor was a British gardener (1881–1950) , garden historian, and horticultural writer. Her life's passion popularized herb gardening. Think of her as you "clip-about" scents to remember this season by.

Trees planted in the canyon give depth to the viewshed
93.7 ° F  is close enough to triple digits to know that summer is here to stay.

Its a dilemma of summer that we expect life to be like song lyrics.  For the "living to be easy. " Forget easy, just make it not feel so darn hot and find ways to make the most of the season which is the changing of the guard from the youthful to mid-life of the year. 
Goldfinch enjoying a sip from sprinkler valve needing repair.
The plants cannot come inside to enjoy the air conditioning. I don't want to lug bag after bag of mulch down up and across the canyon. It is much easier to "mulch in place".  That is how I justify not sweeping away clippings (anything that isn't a weed). In informal private spaces,  it is a virtue to let the sun-dry leaves and buds into compost.  Over time, the soil improves with summer-slow gardening. 

Clippings left on-site are frugal mulch and labor saving device

Inside, there are mid-year corrections to make.


Inside, memories unfold as quilts are folded away until chill returns. Time to peel back the extra quilts off the bed. Wash and hang for the season.  When the dry cleaners decided to fold, not hang bed l linens, it was an off-season dilemma as the collection grew. Yacht Shop sensibility to the rescue.  Pioneer Linens  sells hangers  generously sized and  ├╝ber strong.

God bless the inventors of the Internet. How else would a West Coast suburban housewife ever find a Yacht shop in  West Palm,  Beach Florida?

May Your Independence Day be full of only good memories.