Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Keeping Up With Summer

How is it early July already? I am not liking how quickly time can pass, especially with the chitlins growing so quickly.

But first grade is finished (again, already?!) and we got away to the Finger Lakes last month (see the bottom four pictures). The water at the lake was high and things were mossy and damp and in the 70s the whole week. We got out on the boats twice a day, Willa learned how to fish and we enjoyed the pace of life on the water. There is so much I miss about New York and I loved our time in our rustic cabin. Last week, we also got to Lynchburg for playtime at Amazement Square and a very quick visit to Anne Spencer's garden (third photo from top). I haven't been back there for four years, so it was good to walk her paths and take a little time in her green and serene space.

So, while it has been busy, it has been fun. I have the next month and a half to slow things down a bit and create more of a summer rhythm at home. More painting, coloring, friendship bracelet weaving, popsicle making, baking, working on our summer reading challenges, visiting favorite swimming spots.

I am stepping back from the garden until fall and just watching and enjoying what is happening - with some weeding on cool mornings. Right now, our gardens are in that zone of summer heat colors - daylilies, cleomes, hydrangeas, zinnias, summer phlox and cosmos (top two photos). I am realizing that we need more foliage, more evergreens and more border plants. But that can wait until the autumn.

Other things:

I am so excited about Sally Mann's biography, Hold Still coming out and I think I am 'only' #35 on the hold queue at the library. I am finishing up the companion book to Kate Atkinson's Life After Life - A God in Ruins and can tell you it is just as incredible as Life After Life. Also, The Girl You Left Behind was fantastic.

These popsicles.

Margaret Roach's post on July in the garden. Take heart! Also, Margaret's clafoutis was a hit at our family's Fourth of July party.

Becky's pickle subscription. {Watermelon rind pickles that are the stuff of dreams.}

My piece on The Kitchen Garden for R-Home Magazine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Full Swing/Spring


Getting ALL of the gardening things done. Found a fragrant mock orange (second photo up from bottom). Bought some cleome and tomatoes and they are all planted. Phew. My brother has some peonies he wants me to transplant and then, I should really be finished for the season. I finally treated myself to a big, yellow TubTrug and for some reason, it makes weeding that much easier/nicer. (Also, I was able to wash the dogs in it.)

This spring, I have had to become a master rose slug spotter. For years, I thought it was leaf miners decimating my roses. But a pair of reading glasses revealed rose slugs. Bam! My vintage climbing rose is so much happier these days, now that I have spent some time picking off those little suckers. 

We got out in the boats after supper on Saturday. I need to always remember the healing power of getting out on the water. Sam really got into it, too. I am a lone Scorpio in a sea of Pisces - I am glad they got me in the canoe for the sunset.

It feels like we are resurfacing after eight months of not being able to go out much at all. The easily frustrated two-year old's energy made for hard times at restaurants (we go almost never) and other outings (only if there was a wide open space for him to run). We are all excited to be out again - especially, and particularly, the toddler himself. And it is so much fun to see what he enjoys. Staring at crowds? Yes. Dancing at Fridays After Five? Yes. Dinner parties at family-friendly homes? Yes. Kicking back in the stroller? Yes. Hikes? Yes. 

I read All The Light We Cannot See over the weekend and it followed me around for days. I am also reading The Martian and catching up on the final episodes of Mad Men. We all managed to get a head cold at the end of May (grrrr!) - so there was a lot of rest time over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Hope you early summer garden and activities are going swimmingly. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Well, Well, Well

Celebrating the sun, the rain, new plants and seeds that have been scattered. 

So many plant sales! I am trying out many new things this year - as a result of the generosity of other gardeners and their divisions. Forget-me-nots, blackberry lilies, asters, lamb's ears, 'Man in the Moon' marigolds, hollyhocks, lenten roses, obedient plants and foxgloves. I have also added a few more boxwoods and sowed seeds for four different zinnia varieties ('Blue Point,' 'Granny's Bouquet,' 'Cut and Come Again' and a diminutive variety - 'Pinwheel').

There was also the transplanting of a very old rosebush, from my brother's city farmhouse property to Sugar Hollow. It has been a good faith effort and I hope it takes. The roses smell like summer, with blush-pink blooms. Fingers crossed - as its transplant involved hours of digging, a pick-up truck and a backhoe. But Chris and I did reward ourselves after all of the labor with a visit to the local Irish pub and I had a nice stiff cocktail called The McEwan.

I think I am almost done planting for the season. I did want to "treat myself" (cuz I have a problem, so this is how I rationalize additional purchases) to one or two more shrubs - and can't decide between a mockorange, pinxterbloom azalea or a Korean spice viburnum. Whatever I choose, they are on this short list because they will survive under the black walnut. It is, sometimes, like fitting pieces into a puzzle (which, turns out, I love).

Other things:

I am appreciating adult coloring books and a nice set of Prang colored pencils. It is good for my sanity. I just bought The Secret Garden, but also love coloring mandalas. Thankfully, Willa loves doing this, too. 

The new Laura Marling album. Corey bought it for me on vinyl.

Books that have blown my mind lately - Life After Life, The Department of Speculation, The Secret Keeper, Girl on the Train and We Were Liars

We spent Mother's Day at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton. Seriously, one of the best public parks around. The Gypsy Express train, a duck pond and multiple playgrounds. Yes!

Monday, April 20, 2015

When The Going Gets Great

Hot damn, spring is here! And as a former girl from the North, I would say we earned it this go around. But all of that precipitation and those frigid temperatures were, actually, fantastic for the garden. My winter daphne is blooming and all of the bulbs appreciated their winter-time. That photo at the bottom is actually a tulip. 'Angelique.' They look like peonies. Amazing-amazing. And the bluebells are spreading more and more each year (top photo). Inside for a rainstorm yesterday, Willa and I worked on botanical letters (via The Postman's Knock's tutorial - second photo from top), after rootbeer floats and hot, buttered, stovetop popcorn. We be all about the flowers, right now.

I am trying two new things from seed this year - red poppies and larkspur. Oh, and a new morning glory variety - 'Blue Ensign'. I am really hoping for success with the larkspur - they were a part of my wedding bouquet and their delphinium-like flowers just kill me.

In writing news, I have a few freelance articles coming out soon - Richmond Home Magazine's May/June issue will include my piece on The Kitchen Garden, and I am returning to Charlottesville Family's Home and Garden column next month, as well. Check them out, if you can.

And, earlier in the month, I finally got out to see The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I had the energy and the wherewith-all to stay up for a show that started at 10 (good grief). We are all getting older - can't we just agree that earlier shows are cool enough?!

Hooray for spring - get out there while the getting is good.

Monday, March 9, 2015

We've been hit by several eleventh-hour snowstorms here in Virginia over the past few weeks. And we discovered a few things - one of which is that we have a perfect sledding hill right next to our house, and that sledding under a full moon is something everyone should do in their lifetime. Our little tri-colored terrier, Pearly, even hopped on for a ride. She knew what was good for her. Nothing shakes off cabin fever like flying down a slope into the dark and screaming your head off. Also, if snowed-in, blood oranges work nicely for a whisky sour.

And, honestly, the rest of it is a blur. Lots of reading and movies and the small 'track' in our house was well-worn with running, squealing kids. March is the month of birthdays around here, too. Two, seven and forty-four!

I can tell you, though, what was not blurred or clouded in any form was the elation we all felt yesterday, when it was sixty degrees. Things are smelling good out there in the big, wide world. The earth is warming up and green shoots are pushing their way up through the soil. We are being pulled to the unfurling of springtime, and it is most welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Winter, The Winter

Lately, I feel as if my own voice has been reduced to a squeak. My multiple life roles can be a challenge to balance and as an introvert, I can only recharge through down-time that requires no verbal feedback from me (or additional stimuli). Writing needs time and thought and after responding to everyone else all day, I got nothing. I am okay with this, as long as I can pass out face first into the pillow at the end of the day, without anyone's feelings getting hurt. But my writing does suffer, or simply . . . . doesn't exist at all.


The vast, quiet of winter landscapes is good for this type of regrouping, no doubt. No garden to tend to. No pull to rush outside and be doing something fabulous. I spend a chunk of my alone time just staring out at the mountains, allowing my brain to go . . . void. In a good way for me, in a probably frustrating way for my family.

But once I find my center, I can laugh at the toddler's sense of humor and keep up with his boundless energy full of running and roars!; and truly enjoy the seven-year old's passion for horses while watching her at her first riding lessons. Corey and I have gotten some date night time going to basketball games here at UVa - because they are crushing it this season and going to the stadium for a game is thrilling. And my girlfriends keep me going with evenings out to see bands like Foxygen or DJ Shadow or a Bowie coverband or just to have a cocktail or getting together for family dinners.

The garden is still sleeping and I marvel at how tidy it looks in the dead of winter. Waiting-waiting-waiting - life getting ready to push through the soil (c'mon spring bulbs!). I am taking an edible landscaping workshop tonight - should be perfect for inspiration. I would love to add blueberries to our garden this year.

There is, indeed, gratitude for a full life. From the top: A winter morning in Sugar Hollow. Making the most of indoor gardening: forced bulbs, terrariums and cut eucalyptus. Walking with the monkeys at Mint Springs. In February, the house be smellin' like hyacinths. And, the slower pace of vinyl - listening to Townes Van Zandt.

Other things that I have been loving lately: my new, more consistent yoga practice and daily walks; golden milk; the band Warpaint; finally getting to read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and the podcasts WTF with Marc Maron and By The Way with Jeff Garlin.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting Back to Autumn

A lot of cleanup happening in the garden these days. It is amazing, when I think that two years ago I was very pregnant with a big baby. (Sam was almost nine pounds when he was born - and me being 5' 1", you can imagine how I looked. I made everyone around me nervous, starting at about seven months.) And last autumn, I was whooped from work, adjusting to having a kindergartner and nursing that big baby.

But this year, the mobility is back and it feels incredible! I have been raking and mulching leaves - to return to the beds for overwintering and a good feeding. I planted a fragrant winter daphne and 100 bulbs. This weekend, I hope to clean out the much-ignored cold frame - filling it with compost and mulched leaves and getting it ready to grow greens and maybe radishes for us in late winter and early spring.

So, I think I am ready for winter. I still have a lilac to move and roses to prune. But the wood shed is full, thanks to Corey - which will heat our house by-way of the wood stove. And I have a pile of new books from the Friends of the Library sale, along with saved gardening magazines that I like to revisit. I just need to restock the bar with my favorite liqueurs (for coffees and spiked hot chocolate) and regular whiskey and sipping whiskey (for the rest of the time).

Photos from top: Kayaking at Beaver Creek with a friend on an early Sunday morning. Going over the mountains in Afton. Visiting The Pavilion Gardens at UVa. 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories from Willa's balcony. Autumn in Sugar Hollow - as seen from my bedroom balcony.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Article on Bulbs for RHome Magazine's Garden Column

For the beginner gardener, spring-blooming bulbs are a satisfying, easy start. For the seasoned gardener with a failing memory (me), spring-blooming bulbs are a delight because every forgotten fall-planted bulb is a spring-time surprise. For any gardener, the sweetness of early life in the waning, winter garden and the welcomed injection of color within a previously bleak landscape – is the best kind of jumpstart to the approaching spring season.

The first step is actually just remembering to plant bulbs at a time when gardening tends to be off of the radar – mid- to late-autumn. (I have planted bulbs as late as Thanksgiving.) Bulbs will be available at local garden centers throughout this time period and also through catalogs. You can actually start ordering them as early as June (many places will offer early- bird discounts) and the bulbs will be shipped in the fall.

I asked Becky Heath, of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs out of Gloucester, Virginia, for her top two growing tips for bulbs.  Her first recommendation focuses on siting, forever a very important element to consider when planting your bulbs to ensure success. “Humans tend to place plants where they want to see them.  We suggest that sun-loving bulbs be planted in full sun and shade lovers be planted in the shade…they will be happier, perform better and therefore make the gardener happy, too!”

Also, when planting, think of planting in masses or groups of at least five. They will offer more, aesthetically, to the landscape in drifts instead of singlets. And ditch the bulb planter. I have had better luck planting large amounts of bulbs with a spade by just hitting it into the dirt, moving it back and forth and dropping the bulbs in. Becky has a simple recommendation for creating a bulb raised bed. “Most of our soils are somewhat depleted of nutrients.  We suggest putting down about 6” of compost on top of the ground; place the bulbs on top of the compost and cover them with either 6” more compost, top soil or light mulch.  The bulbs will get the nutrients they need from the compost and will automatically have terrific drainage from the ‘raised bed’ that was just created by planting in this way.”

The trickier element of bulb planting involves timing, if you want constant color and blooms throughout the season. Here is a quick chart to get you started.

Early spring – Snow drops, crocuses, early daffodils. To try: Narcissus “Golden Echo” from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs offers a long-lasting bloom and is pest proof. Crocus “Blue Pearl” is ideal for an early spring show that will also naturalize.

Mid-spring – Later-blooming daffodils, tulips, fritillaries, glory-of-the-snow. To try: Narcissus “Thalia,” an old fashioned daffodil with a scent and pure white flower. Tulip “Angelique” – Double-ruffled flower heads come in shades of pale pink and cream – perfect for the cutting garden. Glory-of-the-snow, Chionodaxa forbesii, is the most asked after spring bulb in our gardens. The small, star-shaped blue and purple flowers dot the landscape and create a fairy-world like groundcover. This particular heirloom variety dates back to 1880.

Late spring/early summer – Alliums-alliums-alliums! Globe-shaped flowers burst into the season atop tall stems that complement everything in the cottage garden. To try: Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ – one of the easiest allium varieties to cultivate. Allium schubertii offers fireworks in flower form. And, Allium caeruleum is a true blue allium. (An extra perk of alliums is that they are not particularly tempting to the wildlife.)

Dream big this autumn. Then, celebrate each new green shoot that pushes through the soil come February, March, April and May – as they mark the unfolding of every delicate, ephemeral spring moment and the gleeful march toward longer, warmer days.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letting August Bring Us On Home

All photos from our gardens, except the top photo and the last. {The last is from Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond - a landscaping feat in and of itself, overlooking the James River.} Sam and I also visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum during that same day - and finally got to see its Enchanted Garden.

The top photo is Willow Spring - in Sugar Hollow.

We have hit that time of year when we are celebrating tomato and melon harvests, zinnias, cleomes, black-eyed susans and daisies. I have to say, this is the first time in a long time that I am sad to see summer go. A beach vacation to Chincoteague; camps for Willa that took her on adventures into the woods or taught her about the theater and dance; relaxed schedules; and chirpy, cool evenings in the garden with a whiskey sour in hand, are becoming memories and I am already wistful for them.

Once I shake it off, I can plan for garden plantings and the excitement of autumnal beginnings in the garden and outside of the garden. There are more hydrangeas to plant near our new outdoor room and hopefully the addition of an old-fashioned mock orange. Also,  in a mid-summer anticipation of fall, I got my bulb order in with Brent and Becky by mid-July - 'Angelique' tulips, 'Thalia' narcissus, alliums, a mix of Chionodoxa and 'Spring Beauty' scillas.

Presently loving:

Clafoutis, cantaloupe sorbet, juicing honeydew/green apple/ginger and mint, homemade boozy cherries for cocktails, swiss chard enchiladas and roasting tomatoes from the recipe in The Homemade Pantry.

Imogen Heap's 'Run-Time' video, Lana Del Rey's new album, Ultraviolence, and the band White Fence.

The miso caramels from Gearhart's Chocolates. I actually went to the dentist to set my sensitive teeth straight so I could eat more of these. Priorities!