Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Getting the Itch

Friday, February 9th, 2018

South Garden in Summer 2013

There’s nothing like a dollop of sunshine in an azure sky – even if it’s for just an hour or so – to get you in the mood for a go at the garden.  The other day, I couldn’t help myself.  Even though I had to layer up beyond ease of movement, I managed to make some headway on the south garden.  Mostly ripping out dead ferns and old dahlia stalks, but it was a start.

The biggest impetus to my gardening zeal (does 45 minutes of ripping and pulling qualify as zeal?) was the example set by Beach Time Landscaping.  Little by little they have been pruning and shaping us back into symmetry.  The view out our east windows is soothing beyond belief.  There’s nothing like a bit of balance and proportion to make you feel better about your universe.

English Cottage Garden

But, my plan for the south garden – the first area to assail one’s senses as they approach our door – is as usual.  I want a riotous tangle of color and texture –  flowers enough to cut for inside with plenty to distract from the weeds that will undoubtedly settle in first.  In my mind’s eye, those beds are an English cottage garden in all its glory.  Usually, the best I can do is nasturtiums running amuck over the porch.

But… there’s always this year.  If I’d quit stewing and get doing, I might have a chance of success.  Maybe next week…

February! My Favorite Month!

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

There has never been a doubt in my mind that the very best month of all is February.  It’s not absolutely perfect weather-wise, of course, but I’m basically an indoors kind of girl so I can easily overlook the weather.   And never mind all those poets who say things like February, month of despair,/with a skewered heart at the center. (Margaret Atwood)

I first loved February because it’s my birthday month.  And then I loved it because it’s not like other months – it doesn’t always have the same number of days.  And sometimes, like this year, it doesn’t even have its own full moon. Usually my birthday is on the last day, but sometimes it’s not.  And, thank goodness, it’s the shortest month no matter what.

Also, it’s the month that’s all about valentines and special candies and secret admirers.  As if that weren’t enough, when I was a girl we had two (count ’em, two!) days off from school – Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday.  I still think of the 12th and the 22nd as holidays.  Just one “Presidents’ Day” is wrong.  All wrong.

February is when the crocuses poke up.  And the daffodils and hyacinths are making headway, as well.  For my very first dinner party of the month, camellias for the table!  There are ducks and brant in “Little Lake” (named by Tucker in honor of my dad) out in our meadow.  There are Canada geese in the big lake near Willard’s Bench.  The eagles put on a daily show as they soar circles over the village.  There are patches of brilliant blue in the sky almost every day.

When I was little, I always hoped for a February snowstorm.  A few days off from school and time to make a snowman, maybe.  Now… I’m content to enjoy the warmth of my fireside, nodding over a good book.  February.  Short, sweet, snuggly February!  It’s definitely my favorite!

Wintery Thoughts Of A Garden Under Stress

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

A Tourist’s Eye View, Summertime

Several years ago, one of my neighbors commented that ours was a “garden under stress.”  No argument here.   Nyel and I had already begun to talk about what we were going to do when taking care of this yard got beyond us.  I took those neighborly remarks as a wake-up call –an alarm going off!  The time had come.

Even so, it took us a while to decide how to proceed.  Finally, we hired a crew to saw and cut, clip and chop those shrubs and trees into submission.  We are about two-thirds done with that first stage now and things are looking much better.  Probably not up to the neighborhood standard, but at least it’s beginning to look like someone cares!


“Intentional” is the watch word of the Head Gardener. Rather than start over with some of the out-of-control plants, his suggestion is to trim them in a way that makes the end result look like that was our intention in the first place.  Works for us!

Stage Two will be to consider that old Gazebo and our need for a woodshed of some sort.  That may be a more difficult issue — time-wise, money-wise, and agreement-wise between us parties of the first part.  It’s the gazebo we don’t see eye-to-eye on.  Maybe not the woodshed either.


We have agreed, though, in the interest of our pocketbooks, to leave the flower beds for us to do.  When I sit in my rocking chair and think about how I hope it will look in summer, I’m sure I can manage.  But… when I look outside at the reality of it all, I despair…  And I haven’t talked to Nyel yet about the vegetable garden.  Will we or won’t we try again this year?

I console myself with the thought that it’s better to have a garden partly under stress than in the throes of a full-blown nervous breakdown.  And that goes for Mary, Mary as well.  No wonder she was quite contrary!  I know the feeling…

For the first time in ages…

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Fall Garden

It’s Saturday and, for the first time in recent memory, we are home with absolutely no plans and no have-to’s for the entire weekend.  Of course, as might be expected, I’ve already spent an hour catching up with correspondence and trying to book a coffee date for tomorrow and a teeny-tiny meeting with a neighbor for today.  Nature abhors a vacuum and all that.

But, it is really lovely to have a full forty-eight hours to do whatever occurs to us – no appointments to go to, no events to attend, no pressing obligations.  Nyel actually has gone back to bed for a little more shut-eye and I am trying to sort through and prioritize those ever-present projects that have been on the back burner for months.  Some are want-to’s and some were once have-to’s but the passage of time seems to have washed out any urgency I once felt about whatever-they-were.


The garden is calling for clean-up but not so loudly as usual.  Since I heard a KMUN program the other day by a Master Gardener who advised leaving the detritus of fall where it is, I’ve ‘almost’ decided to let nature take its course.  Almost.  I did like her argument about the bees.  Bumblebees, in particular.  Did you know that the queen bumblebee hibernates through the winter?  She burrows under a shallow covering of soil, often under a protective pile of leaves, and there she stays until spring.  (Operative words here:  protective pile of leaves.)

After winter. when she rouses, she will seek out a sufficient place to start her brood in a dry, well-sheltered area that has some shade so the temperature of the colony can be regulated.  The queen will then fertilize her own eggs depending on the needs of the colony (fertilized eggs become female workers and unfertilized eggs become males) and lay them into brood cells where she will feed them nectar and pollen.


In about 4 days the eggs hatch. In the early days of the nest it is estimated that the queen may have to visit as many as 6,000 flowers per day in order to get enough nectar to maintain the heat needed to brood her eggs. And during every foraging trip the brood will cool down, so the trips should be short. This is why it is vital that the nest is located close to rewarding flowers.

But wait!!  Full stop.
At this point, I’m thinking that, while I might not feel compelled to do a fall clean-up, I do have to consider spring blossoms.  Maybe as many as 6,000?  Oh my!  I’ll think about that tomorrow (said Scarlett)… After all, I have the whole weekend.

In The Dark and All A-Tangle

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Garden All A-Tangle

It’s not just my usual lament about the warp-speed at which time travels these days.  At least, I’m pretty sure not.  It’s my usual lament on steroids!

Already we are waking up in the dark.  I have only begun all my planned summer garden projects.  We’ve not yet made a single potato salad.  We haven’t eaten out in the garden even once.  And we’ve had fewer get-togethers and visits with the usual summer travelers who ‘just stop by’ or at least ‘give a holler’ when they are in the area.

Nope, it doesn’t seem like summer should be winding down already.  Not at all.

Remants from 2016 Garden

It’s not only the weather that’s to blame, but it certainly even that has been different from most summers.  Usually July and August hold out many opportunities for al fresco everything.  This year, not so much.  Or at least, not so much when we’ve been home.  Unfortunately, good weather doesn’t count for much when we are spending time in the hospital – an occurrence that has been all too frequent this particular summer.

So… what to do about it?  I can’t decide whether to knock myself out for the remaining days of the season, no matter the weather, and try to shape things up around here or… maybe to decide just to give this summer a miss.  Chalk it up to ‘shit happens’ and get on with things as best we can.

Barbara Espy Williams Geisler at The Great Wall 

I think I am at that point in life where the examples of my forebears come into play.  I think of my mother’s cousin Barbara who went on a long-planned trip to China with her daughters even though she had been recently diagnosed with brain cancer…  I think of my grandmother who coped with my grandfather’s increasing dementia, even though she, herself, was blind and suffering from heart problems.  I think of my Great Uncle Cecil who lived alone well into old age and managed a house and garden larger than ours.

I don’t remember any of them lamenting what they could not do.  Oh.  Except once my dad noticed Uncle Cecil sitting on the edge of his porch – his push mower nearby.  When dad asked him if everything was okay, Uncle Cecil did complain… just a tad.  “I’ve never had to stop and rest while I was mowing before,” he said with disgust.  He was 90 at the time!

Wow!  Short summer be damned!  I’m on it!

Midst the Hospital Hustle-Bustle

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Late Monday afternoon, Nyel’s nurse snagged an idle wheelchair and suggested that we might like a visit to the Children’s Garden just off one of the main halls on the first floor.  We didn’t need a bit of prompting!  We were in the elevator and heading four floors downward before you could say “Never Neverland!”

We had been within the temperature-controlled hospital for days and, even though people coming in from the greater world had said it was hot out, we were unprepared for the wave of warmth that greeted us as we entered the garden.  Fabulous!  In combination with the lush greenery and the sound of dripping, splashing, flowing water from various fountains and ‘water treatments,’ the effect was magical, indeed.

We meandered slowly along the paths, stopping here and there to take a picture or just to sit and enjoy the lushness.  Favorite childhood characters were everywhere – a larger-than-life Tinman (holding Dorothy’s slippers) was my favorite.  Peeping out from the foliage were life-like sculptures of wading birds and frogs and other little creatures that almost made you want to whisper so as not to disturb them.

Here and there we passed other visitors, all adults as it happened.  Perhaps the time of day – dinnertime-ish – was not optimum for children.  Or, maybe, the garden was simply intended to evoke the rediscovery of childhood for all of us.  If that was the intent, it was totally successful for these two old folks – even though Nyel has always insisted to me that he never was a kid.  As I watched him smile at one garden discovery after another, I knew that well-worn idea simply wasn’t true.  Either that or, more likely, he’s well into his second childhood!  Me, too, and it’s not at all a bad place to be

In My Mind’s Eye

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Red Cottage 1984

After vespers Sunday, a man approached me to ask, “What happened to the roses that have always been on the fence in front of the old courthouse in Oysterville?”  I had to think for a minute to realize that he meant the profusion of Dorothy Perkins roses that once grew on Willard’s fence.  They grew there more recently, too, during the twenty years that the Accuardis owned the little red cottage.  In my mind’s eye, they are there still.

But, of course, I know better.  New owners.  New ideas.  No roses.  I imagine it’s a work in progress, which is what I told the gentleman who was asking.  I’m not sure why he targeted me as the one who should know except that I had been identified during the service as the one who had supplied the bouquets for that day – vases of Dorothy Perkins roses!

Red Cottage, July 2017

I felt pleased he had noticed that they were gone.  I thought it was just me.  And I thought, once again, how hard it is to deal with change as I age.  I guess, in a way, it’s good that I can still pull up  my mind’s eye memories.  And I so appreciate others who remember, as well.

Once, long ago, I walked into the living room and found my mother weeping over the paper.  Someone I didn’t know had died – a girlhood friend of hers.  “I’m so sorry,” I said and was a bit taken aback by her response: “It’s not that she died, exactly.  It’s just that she’s the last one who remembered Mama when she was a young woman. When we were children…”

At Vespers, July 16, 2017

Now, as I approach the age when my contemporaries are becoming scarce, I understand more fully what my mother meant. If we live long enough, we finally get to the place where there are fewer and fewer people who share our memories.  Whether it’s the particular quality of my own mother’s laugh or that twinkle in my father’s bright blue eyes, it’s nice to know that others remember too.  Even when it comes to the roses on Willard’s fence

A Matter of False Pride?

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Host and Hostess Steve Romero and Martie Kilmer

My great-grandfather might have called it “vainglory” – I’m not sure.  It wasn’t exactly false pride that I felt yesterday.  Not the kind that “cometh before a fall.”  At least I hope not.  But I did undeservedly bask in all the complimentary comments I heard about Oysterville (in general) and about Steve and Martie’s garden (in particular) yesterday.  Fabulous all the way around!

It was the Music in the Gardens Tour and, as it turned out, we couldn’t go.  Nyel had been scheduled for yet another hospital stay beginning Friday and we had forewarned our tour guests from Seaside and Florida that they would be on their own.  Then, suddenly, the hospital cancelled Nyel’s appointment – bad blood numbers; maybe next week.  So, we were here, after all!  But Nyel couldn’t manage the treks through the gardens so… we stayed home.  Well, he did.  And I mostly did.

The Winterlings

I went north with our guests as far as the Captain Stream house here in the village – clutching my cell phone after instructing Nyel to call me if he needed me.  And then I spent a glorious hour admiring what people told me later was one of the best gardens on the tour.  I’m pretty sure they were telling the truth and I puffed right up as if I had something to do with it!  Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.  But I was so pleased that my up-the-street neighbors were on the tour that a feeling of proprietorship totally enveloped me.

And my false pride didn’t stop there.  As I entered the garden, there were The Winterlings playing their distinctive ‘indie folk’ music, and one of my favorites of their songs, at that.  They had played here at a House Concert in March and it felt like ‘old home week’ to see them again.  Plus, of course, Steve and Martie were their usual elegant and welcoming selves.  They have been such a fine addition to Oysterville and I felt almost like they were my very own “show-and-tell” offering.  I surely hope I don’t get smat (past tense of smite; look it up) for thinking that!

Steve and Martie’s Croquet Court (Photo by Mark Scarborough)

So, with all of these benevolent and prideful thoughts, it was extra icing on the cake to see so many friends from all over the Peninsula (and beyond) in the hour or so I was there!  Did I have time between hugs and greetings to see the garden?  Yes… sort of.  And I think chances are good that I’ll see it again before too long.  When Nyel is feeling better, I want him to get a glimpse, too.  And, after all, ‘at the end of the village’ in Oysterville is only three blocks away!

Perhaps introductions are in order?

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.

Isn’t that the loveliest thought?  Roland A. Browne, author of The Common Sense Guide to Flower Gardening said it.  I’ve added it to my ‘list’ of things I wish I’d thought of first.  It’s a long, long list!

Right now, roses are taking center stage in our garden (such as it is).  I think the first week of June is supposed to be best for rose viewing in the Northwest.  Or, at least, that’s when the Rose Festival occurs in Portland.  But our roses out on the coast seem to be at their height a bit later.  Like now!

Not that we purposely cultivate roses.  Whichever ones bravely appear each year were planted long ago, either by my grandmother or by my father.  They were the chief gardeners on this property – my grandmother, from the time she arrived in 1902 until blindness overtook her in the 1950s; my father, from the time he retired here in 1972 until his death in 1991.

I don’t actually associate roses with either of them, though.  I tend to think of violets and silver dollar plants and sweet peas when visualizing my grandmother and flowers.  For dad, certainly for the years he lived here, dahlias and rhododendrons claimed his attention.

I do remember that we had a ‘rose garden’ when I was a kid in Alameda.  It was actually a garden bed carved out of the lawn in the back yard and I remember the rose plants standing stiffly and prickly row on row.  And speaking of prickly, in another area of that garden, up against the house, we had a ‘cactus garden’ which I never did feel friendly about – especially not after my neighbor Robert Reading fell into it from our sunroom window!

Now, with our seemingly endless policy of benign neglect, it’s a wonder that anything at all flourishes in our garden.  We do tend to have a lot of people coming and going, though.  Perhaps our roses enjoy seeing them as Mr. Browne seemed to suggest. I must remember to introduce them purposely now and then.  It seems the polite (and prudent) thing to do.

Surprises in the Gardens!

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

My Ticket to A Day of Surprises!

Wow!  In a surprise move by the Water Music Festival, tickets for Music in the Gardens went on sale yesterday – two days earlier than originally planned.  Since it’s not a “seating is limited” sort of deal, no worries, though.  You can buy tickets at any one of three venues here on the Peninsula – Bay Avenue Gallery, Ocean Park; Basket Case Greenhouse, Long Beach; The English Nursery, Seaview; or… online at

That $20 ticket investment entitles you to what I think of as ‘complete garden gluttony’ right here at the beach among our friends and neighbors.  Your ticket will include a map with the seven garden venues clearly marked – gardens from Chinook to Oysterville.  And, of course, as the name of the event implies, there will be music in every garden!  But… in another surprise move, the Water Music Festival remains silent on which musicians in which venues at what times!  It will be a wait-and-see (maybe a wait-and-hear) kind of experience.

Tom Trudell

According to this week’s Observer, musicians will include local favorites Tom Trudell (piano), Brian O’Connor (guitar/vocals), Barbara Bate (piano) and The Ocean Bay Trio (three members of the Mozart Chicks).  And, from afar… The Winterlings (indie folk duo), Terry Robb (blues guitar), Brad & Dave (bluegrass banjo, guitar and mandolin), and Gary Stroutsos (flute.)  I am considering a petition to change the name of the event to Mystery in the Gardens – but it probably wouldn’t be a popular move!

Which-music-where won’t be the only surprise in store for ticket holders!  There will also be artists in the gardens – Noel Thomas (painting), Susan Spence (weaving baskets) and Patricia Fagerland (displaying a variety of garden art.)  At one of the gardens, raffle prizes will be on display, among them a wooden garden bench by Dick Rodlun, a Noel Thomas painting; a beach basket by Susan Spence; and a collection of Don Nisbet items.  And, as if added eye-candy were needed, look for the restored 1966 Nova and a fern-green 1976 Mercedes Benz on display, one in a Long Beach garden and one in the Oysterville venue.

Garden Bench by Dick Rodlun

So, whether you go under your own steam or, for an additional $15.00, go by the special trolley with chauffeur and tour guide – you are in for a full day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) of surprises during your Music in the Gardens experience on Saturday, July 15th!  Hope to see you along a garden path!