Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

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!

Lily, Dorothy, and that darling Daisy

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

They’re regulars at this time of year.  Lily, Dorothy Perkins and that fresh-faced Daisy and her many, many look-alike sisters. This year they all arrived on the very same day – the first of July.  It was late for Lily and Daisy and just about on time for Dorothy.  I’ve seldom seen them get into town on the same day, although once here they hang out and visit with one another for a good part of the summer.

Usually Lily arrives first – all bright colors and eye-catching stamens.  So tempting to invite her inside for a visit, but oh so disastrous if you don’t take precautions!  She’ll spot and stain your linens and laces without even nodding her beautiful head.  Best to pluck the stamens before the pollen appears.  The removal won’t hurt Lily – in fact, it may increase her lifespan. And you’ll find her a much better-behaved guest with just that minimal preparation before escorting her inside.

Dorothy, so pink and delicate looking, tends toward the thorny side and needs to be handled with care.  From a distance, she peeks out of her surrounding greenery, almost hidden until her friends come to join her in the next few weeks.  She’s shy and not eager to leave the safety of the picket fence.  When I urge her  inside, even bribing her by offering my grandmother’s silver bowl, she begins to wither within a day or two. I’ve learned to enjoy her on her own terms – outside where she prefers to be.

And then there’s Daisy.  She might be my favorite.  Certainly, she’s the easiest to get along with.  Outside or inside, she’s the epitome of purity and straightforwardness.  “What you see is what you get,” she says.  She not a bit prickly and doesn’t mess anything up.  She stays for most of the summer, along with her sun-loving sisters.  I love it that they hang out right near our porch where I see them every time I go in or out.

So… thanks, my lovely garden girls!  Thanks for the pleasure you bring every year, asking not a thing in return except maybe a little water now and then.  How lucky we are!  How very, very lucky!

The Trouble With Summer

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

Oysterville Neighbors Horace Wirt and Harry Bowman, 1948

Of course it’s not true, but I’m blaming summer for all the things I’m not getting accomplished.  I have a long list – especially outside tasks that accumulate throughout the year and, at least to my way of thinking, can’t be done during the cold, rainy season.  Certainly not by me.  I am the poster child for Fair Weather Gardener.

But, try as I might, I make slow progress around here in the non-rainy (read: summer) season as well.  No matter when I go outside to get busy on a project, I get interrupted.  A friendly tourist hangs over the fence and asks a question (or six.)  A friend from across the bay drives by while I’m out front for a minute and we have an ‘Oysterville meeting’ in the street.  Or, the doorbell rings and it’s a relative from afar who just wanted to say ‘hello’ while they were in the area.  Besides, visiting over the back fence is an old Oysterville tradition!

Bottom line, of course, is that I’d rather visit any day instead of working in the garden or anyplace else, for that matter.  If there’s an opportunity for an interesting conversation, I’m ‘in.’  Nyel, the silent member of our two-person team, sometimes suggests “Just say no.”  I’m sure he doesn’t mean it literally but even discouraging a friendly approach goes against my better nature.

Sydney and Uncle Cecil, 1979

Like my mother and my grandfather, I have become garrulous in my old age.  It’s an Espy trait that comes out in about half of us.  The other half – the silent Espys – probably get more done.  My great uncle Cecil, for instance, was a man of few words.   In the years after his retirement from the Portland banking world, he lived alone in the big red house here in Oysterville.  He slept in the downstairs bedroom (now a bathroom) in the bed in which he was born in 1887 and kept house and property in apple pie order until his death in 1882.  At 93, he still mowed his large lawn with a push-mower.  I doubt that he ever paused to visit with anyone at all.

Today promises to be sunny and warm.  I have high hopes for big accomplishments in the flower beds.  On the other hand, it will no doubt be a grand day for folks to be out and about right here in greater downtown Oysterville – visiting the church, on their way to the Art and Artisans Fair at the schoolhouse, dropping by to say ‘hello’…  As I say, that’s the trouble with summer.

“It’s getting on for July…”

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

As usual, I am amazed that time is flying by and I can’t keep up. Only two more days and June will be history.  I can just hear my grandmother’s soft voice saying with the same sense of disbelief,  “It’s getting on for July already.  How time flies.”

I almost expect the garden to be glowering at me.  I’ve had so many plans to bring it up to speed.  The sacks of beauty bark sit stacked on the porch where they have been for several weeks now.  The lawn is struggling toward green, despite me dragging my heels on fertilizing – never mind that thatching and aerating part.  And, though I’ve attacked those weeds periodically, here they come, sticking out tongues of green at me.  I can hear their “Nyah Nyah Nyah” loud and clear.

But when I look outside, forgiving green leaves and spots of bright color are actually what I see first.  The rhododendrons that circle the yard, though long finished blooming, soften and mute the many signs of neglect.  The roses and honeysuckle, the poppies and hydrangeas are blooming hysterically and in spite of all.  How lucky I am that they endure, even thrive, with my minimal attention!

It’s probably that I clap and cheer and talk to them each time I go out.  (When I mentioned that to Nyel, he just looked at me.  Not even an eye roll.)  I try to tell them how they brighten my days and make me feel blessed.  How they connect me to the past – my father’s favorite York roses, the honeysuckle that clambers up my grandmother’s pear tree; and the Dorothy Perkins roses that Willard loved.  And here come the daisies and dahlias!  And nasturtiums!

So, bring on July!  I’ll try to do better…

Looking for 2014

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Day-to-day life went on hold in our household when Nyel had his quadriceps ‘transplant’ in the fall of 2014.  Life has never totally returned to normal (whatever that was), partly because Nyel’s recovery took a complete year and partly because full recovery lasted only a few months.

Lots has happened, health-wise, in the interim – heart surgeries and procedures for Nyel, mostly,  Plus that old clock tick-tocking our youth and energy away for both of us.  During these many months, some of the routines/chores of our lives have been relegated to a position of ‘On Permanent Hold’ – like the garden and my office.  Not completely, of course.  We’ve managed to hire the mowing done at times when Nyel couldn’t even manage the rider mower and I haven’t been arrested yet for the non-payment of bills.  Otherwise, though…

Spreader at the Ready

So, somehow, this has become the Summer of Catch Up.  The dining room has been given over to the piles and piles of ‘stuff’ that have accumulated in my office – documents to file or re-file, detritus to sort through, much of it saved for scrapbooks that had never been begun.  Bit by bit, I’m clearing off desk and counter tops and discarding, consolidating, organizing.  That’s what I do in the mornings these days and am determined to continue until I’m caught up.

In the afternoons, it’s the garden.  Three hours at a stretch is my limit when it comes to weeding, clipping, trimming, baiting, and general garden bed maintenance.  Fortunately, I’ve made passes at some of it now and then over the past few summers.  I can’t even imagine what trouble we’d be in if ‘neglect’ had been the operable word all this time.  Even so, I can only think one chore, one patch, at a time.  Otherwise, it would overwhelm me completely.  I would not be able to face those plant people who are trying to overtake the human and chicken habitations on our property .

Rain and the Greening of the Lawn

This week I’ve been using the spreader to fertilize and de-moss the lawn.  Our garden comprises about an acre and pushing that little full-to-the-brim spreader back and forth, across and over, time after time sets my thighs on fire and leaves me gasping, I can tell you.  I consider the process (and all this other garden maintenance stuff) my exercise program.  I still have the croquet court area to go.  It’s a chore Nyel used to do four times a year – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving week.  Yikes!

Today, it’s raining.  Whatever time I have around the edges of a dental appointment in Long Beach and a doctor’s appointment in Vancouver I’ll spend in the dining room on the hunt for 2014 – and every year from then till now.  Plus, I’ll be watching the lawn (except for the croquet court) green right up!  And all the while, resting my poor old aching legs and all the other parts connected with my summer exercise program.  If there’s time, I may even take a nap!