Rose

My one real rose began life in one of those 4-inch pots, a gift from a visitor who came to do a Fiddle Tunes workshop. I stuck it in a planter box on the ground and neglected it. I didn’t take it seriously.

But last year transplanted into a good-sized pot and and crowded with a stargazer lily, the rose flowered until December. The stargazer bloomed and perfumed last summer and has two budded stalks now. Buds formed early on the rose and shapely pink blossoms followed. Of course I wish for more.

In one of her newspaper columns, published June 25, 1954, Vita Sackville-West wrote:

“Dead-heading the roses on a summer evening is an occupation to carry us back to a calmer age and a different century. Queen Victoria might still be on the throne. All is quiet in the garden; the paths are pale; our silent satellite steals up in the sky; even the aeroplanes have gone to roost and our own nerves have ceased to twangle. There is no sound except the rhythmic snip-snip of our own secateurs, cutting the dead-heads off, back to a new bud, to provoke new growth for the immediate future.”

Poppy

The Bride’s Garden is made from dirt dug from the postholes for a deck built last summer. The carpenter said kindly: “There’s no organic stuff in that soil.” I said with confidence: “There will be.” (Though I had many doubts, as always when beginning a permaculture bed.) But it was only March, and we added compost and straw and surrounded the mound with a primitive “wattle fence” – short uprights cut from downed wood, with disorderly branches woven in between.

By late summer blue-purple nepeta and lavender set off many blossoms in shades of the wedding orange: calendula, calico hues of yarrow, poppies, and a beautiful crocosmia. Nasturtium spilled onto the lawn and path from the wattle “basket.”

Shirley poppies, like in this painting, filled many a bare patch in the last few summers, but are a lost cause this year. I think my friends, the towhees and sparrows, in their vigorous soil work discovered the poppy seeds.

But in the Bride’s Garden nearly everything survived: nepeta blooms, self-seeded nasturtium have leaves the size of small plates and trailing buds beginning. The orange poppies (a perennial variety) open and wave cheerfully in the wind.

I bring them in the house with calyx still tightly wrapped (singeing the bottom of the stems with a match) and enjoy their unfurling as they open and smooth crinkly petals.

The carpenter would approve of the Bride’s Garden now.

Thalictrum

Thalictrum rochebrunianum is pictured here – and it’s the thalictrum I wanted to bring from my old garden to Washington.  But I dug up a baby Thalictrum aquilegifolium to carefully transport – and now it grows – oh well.

In 1911, garden sage Gertrude Jeckyll wrote: “But good gardening means patience and dogged determination. There must be many failures and losses, but by always pushing on there will always be the reward of success. Those who do not know are apt to think that hardy flower gardening of the best kind is easy. It is not easy at all. It has taken me half a lifetime merely to find out what is best worth doing, and a good slice out of another half to puzzle out the ways of doing it.”

Eggs for Sale

Summertime and the hens are happy – living on farms with names like Spring Rain, Wildwood, Solstice, or Maple Grove (where “occasional danger from raccoons, love and gratitude” are listed as part of the ingredients). In an enterprise resembling lemonade stands, kids here raise chickens and provide eggs to neighbors. A young garden writer/blogger came to stay and offered as a hostess gift six pale blue eggs, carried in a carton in her stylish purse.

My bookbinder friends have a small farm in the courtyard of their bindery with orderly healthy beds of vegetables and corn(!), teepees over planted beans with a ring of radishes underneath for now, berries and flowers – it’s all there. They also have beautiful chickens: Doris, Dahlia, Esperanza, and Lila. They live in an apple-green chicken coop with laying box and little run – but the delight of their days is the work they do for the bookbinder-farmers.

When offered an out-of-the-coop break, these eager chickens cluck and murmur their way into a “chicken tractor” without wheels. It gets carried or dragged to a new area to work – garden beds in the making or garden bed before planting. The ladies scratch and dig, sometimes shaping a hole to settle into, but most often searching for edibles – undesirables by our standards – and making fertility deposits.

The cadmium yellow yolks of fresh, free-range happy chicken eggs bear no resemblance to the pale lemon yolks of commercial eggs. With so many eggs available, we eat a lot.

Deborah’s Chard and Onion Omelet (Trouchia) is a beauty, it rewards the time to make it. Full of sweet onions and puffed to a golden brown, the chard and onions melt in your mouth after slow, slow cooking. But Mark Bittman’s frittata is a good compromise in a Saturday night pinch. You can make it with other vegetables, but with chard it respectably mimics trouchia.

Wash the chard and cut out the stem and chop, putting stem pieces to cook with the onions in a non-stick pan. Meanwhile steam the chard leaves and then add them to the pan. Beat five or six eggs, adding a little Parmesan or other cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into the onions and chard, push around with a spoon, and cook over low heat till firm on the bottom. A few minutes in the oven finishes it off.

A frittata is skinnier than a trouchia – but very delicious – and also good as leftovers. Chard keeps its red and green color in and amongst the rich egg yellow. Ease out onto a colorful plate and serve with a salad and bread.

Thanks hens!

Summer Solstice

The longest day of the year – a little frisson of dread – the gaining of daylight ends and the losing begins. But still, we have so much real summer ahead – more time with warmer weather in our gardens.

In the book “Gardens of Inspiration,” 15 gardeners, including favorites like Mirabel Osler and Anna Pavord, were asked to write about gardens that influenced them. The book is rich and thoughtful with photographs by Vivian Russell, who is also one of the gardeners.

After years of visiting gardens to take pictures she writes: “It is the process by which people arrive at the gardens they have made which fascinates me; the sources, references, connections and singular passions that seep into the well of the unconscious and swirl around for years, before ideas for a garden are finally ready to be drawn.” And adds: “The most inspiring thing about gardens for me is the way in which they make people happy.”

This painting of garden perennials, done in a rainy Alaska solstice week, still makes me happy – but so does thinking about Washington summer – due to arrive after the Fourth of July!

Columbine

In “The Lost Gardens of Heligan,” the story of reclaiming a derelict, centuries old estate in Cornwall, Tim Smit writes:

“A garden is one of the ultimate human conceits and living architecture, perverting the course of nature to human ends. Leave it for a moment and the conceit is revealed for what it is, as the land reverts to nature’s rhythm and imperatives. A gardener is merely putting off the inevitable encroachment of the wild. It is in this that I can sense the real hold that gardens and gardening have on the imagination, with the inexorable rolling pageant of the seasons and all the attendant triumphs and disasters at the hands of nature. The relativity and transience of each success encourages humility.”

And sometimes it is hard to tell the triumphs from the disasters. Out of fondness for it, I want to include columbine here, even though I can’t easily find the columbine in the southwest bed where it was planted. It’s engulfed now by giant stalks of lilies and self-seeded foxglove (“the inevitable encroachment of the wild”).

I’ll find another spot for the columbine – triumph for the lily needn’t be disaster for the lovely columbine.

Wild Roses

Most days, when we can, we drive a few minutes to the low bank access at North Beach and walk a loop – the beach walk. Depending on the recent tide, the shore is hard packed sand, gravelly sand, or slippery cobble and kelp littering exposed clay. Only very high tides prevent our heading toward the lighthouse, at the point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Puget Sound. Whidbey island is to our left, the cliffs of Fort Worden to the right above us.

Winter wind and rain squalls give way in June to early sunshine, low, low tides and good footing. Crows, gulls, and eagles, nearly always keep us company. Some days we see a blue heron standing on one leg or a sanderlings scurrying on skinny legs. Seal heads might bob just offshore.

Before the lighthouse a trail through tall beach grass leads to the campground – completely full in the summer, sparsely occupied in January. While there are big motor homes – there are also little cars and little tents and kids so excited to be sleeping out. We smell pancakes cooking and get to remember camping with our boys when we see sleepy parents by the campfire clutching mugs.

The trail climbs a south facing, heart pounding hill through big maple trees. Winter wrens and robins sing above, fir needles and maple leaves carpet the path.

We reach the top out of breath, and walk back on the top of the bluff with glimpses of the sea on a wide trail, good for talking or companionable silence.

The route through trees opens into a perfect wedding site with the Strait as backdrop, the lawn spangled with tiny daisies, and surrounding hedges of wild roses perfuming the air. This time of year, weekend mornings find white chairs stacked up or set up in wedding day anticipation.

Our route drops down off the bluff through beautiful Washington forest: madrona, cedar, Doug fir, with understory of salal, Oregon grape, false Solomon’s seal, wild roses, and fern. It skirts a bunker blocked off these spring months – we assume because of the huge eagle’s nest above nearby.

The trail emerges into a meadow with lagoon and Olympic Mountains view, and the sweet fragrance of wild roses. We walk on mowed paths under the swoops of cliff swallows. White-crowned sparrows call from the top of ocean spray and wild rose near the parking lot.

What a privilege this walk is – and maybe best when the wild roses bloom.