Creating Beautiful
Whidbey Island Landscapes


that celebrate the unique history, ecology and character of our island home.

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Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Fascination’ – dark foliage

Seed grown Dahlia by my father-in-law from the Bishop series. My favorite.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

Dahlia ‘Sandia Shomei’ – short

Dahlia ‘Bracken Lorelei’

 

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Sibling rivalry

“I don’t like to cook, ” I confessed to my cook-extraordinaire friend Gwen at a  monthly meeting of my beloved Twilight plant group.  She looked stunned and said, “I didn’t think that was possible.  To love gardening and not like to cook.”   Oh, it’s possible and I come from a long line of women who I inherited the trait from.  I do like to grow vegetables.  I spend hours reading the seed catalogs in winter.  I love the look of spring seedlings in their tidy rows.  I like eating straight out of the garden – a berry, a cherry tomato, a pea pod, a carrot cleaned on the side of my jeans.  The plants themselves are often gorgeous, like the striking mottled leaf of this zucchini, Sungreen from Territorial Seeds.

Doing anything with the vegetables  besides eating them raw strongly implies coming in to the kitchen.  And if I come in to cook, I also have to stay in to clean it all up, all the while looking out the window and wishing I were back outside, like a kid in summer.  But it does make me mad (at myself) at the end of autumn when I am tossing mushy, rotting vegetables into the compost  that could have gone into the freezer or the pantry.  Every year I resolve to be better about eating what I grow or at least giving it away.

There’s a lot of peer pressure to cook these days, especially when you live so close to locally grown food.   We have great farmers and  markets that sell wine, cheese, bread, meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, herbs – you name it.   Mr. likes to cook, especially if he has a son-in-law here.  They’ve made pasta, ground their own meat for burgers, fried doughnuts, even attempted cheese and homemade mayonnaise.  Our Utah daughter converted to cooking after three weeks  in France and is today making salsa as a result of  tomatilla glut.  Our Seattle daughter makes her own baby food for our grandson, who I call Grasshopper.  Grasshopper especially likes zucchini and peaches.

It was my sister that finally pushed me over the edge.  This is the “few little things I have for you” when we met for my mom’s birthday.  Even though Janice told me to put the pickles in the fridge for a few days, I immediately opened and ate one of the best homemade dill pickles I’ve ever had.   I had the pears alongside a lonely  peanut butter sandwich dinner  whilst Mr. was away eating something fantastic down in Charleston on a business trip.  It reminded me of childhood – my mother did can all of our fruits and vegetables.

I resurrected Wimpy’s Delight, a hamburger relish from the book Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty and Pierre Le-Tan.  I used to make it every year and give it away for holiday gifts when our girls were small and money was tight.  Our little neighbor friend Stacy used to walk through the kitchen holding her nose and gagging while it was in process.  Mr said he loves the smell.  Maybe what makes people cook is –  love.

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Can’t See the Garden for the Weeds

September is often a melancholy month for me.  Obviously, the month resurrects those  feelings of having to say good-bye to unfettered outdoor adventure and return to the classroom.  But it also reminds me that the end of the active gardening season is fast approaching and what did I accomplish anyway?  This has been a particularly unproductive year, since my Mr has been out-of-town on business for much of it.   It’s not only more work, but lonely to garden by yourself.  And our garden clearly shows the result of this.

So what was I thinking when I invited guests to our garden?  Well, way back this spring when I invited them,  I was thinking I might show them around the garden, that they would ooh and aah and then they would settle down to sketch and paint and whatever else they do while I served them lemonade and cookies.  For you see – these weren’t your run of the mill guests, but ARTISTS – people who know what things SHOULD look like!  Specifically, members of the Whidbey Island Sketchers, http://www.whidbeyislandsketchers.blogspot.com/.  One of their members is my friend Pat, http://www.patbrookes.blogspot.com/ ,  who used to belong to my beloved Twilight plant group.  On group outings, you would find most of us debating the species of the plant in front of us or waxing rhapsodic about its bark.  Pat would be sketching.  Pat also sketched during meetings.  How do you sketch, keep track of the conversation and the cheese on your plate?  How do you also have a beautiful, Whidbey Island Garden Tour worthy garden, as Pat does?  I guess you have to be an artist.

Most of the time I really like to share our garden and this time, I was secretly hoping I could convince some of those artists to sell me some of their work for my office walls, or cards or stationary.  But as the day approached, I became more and more relieved that we were going to be out-of-town during their weekly sketch in our garden.  I hoped the sketchers wouldn’t be too disappointed.  When we returned from our trip, Pat was parked at the end of our driveway, eating a post-sketch snack.  She assured me that the day had gone well and asked if we wanted to see her sketches?  Of course I did, and exclaimed, “THOSE make the garden look so beautiful!”  Pat said, “No, that’s how your garden looks.”

I am going to do some weeding this month.  But I am also going to lift my eyes from what needs to be done and savor the beauty of September – the lower light that makes everything smokey, the neon orange and pink sunsets, the refreshing coolness of the morning,  the fog that softens all the edges.

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Plant Memories

We’ve had a lot of life events in our family this past year – wedding, death and a new baby on the way.   I like to mark occasions with the planting of a tree.  Much of the beauty of a garden is short-lived, but most trees live a long life given proper planting and care and it’s nice  to think that someday (quite a few years from now) when we’re gone, my children and grandchildren could walk down our road and say, “Look, there’s the tree that was planted for me.”

Two years ago, we planted a Liriodendron tulipifera / Tulip Tree to honor the marriage of our daughter A. and son-in-law, T.  A loves all kinds of magnolias and their relatives and they had a huge Liriodendron in their backyard in Brooklyn,  NY.  They lived on the third floor of a brownstone so they could see into the blooms at the top of the tree that most often go unnoticed from down below.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Another daughter, another A. married son-in-law S. this July.  This past weekend we planted Quercus robur / English oak in their honor.  Unbeknownst to each other, they both spent time in England as young adults, at the same time!  Both were English majors and have interests in British history and poetry.  S. requested that the tree be big enough to hold a swing for children or grandchildren.  I don’t know that I can deliver on that one – I planted the biggest specimen I thought would survive and flourish in our landscape.  For a now, we’ll just have to build a swing next to the tree.

Quercus robur

We said good-bye to our beloved golden retriever, Bunter this summer.  In remembrance of her, we planted Cornus ‘Starlight’ / dogwood in the corner of our property where she liked to chase rabbits.    ‘Starlight’ is a cross between our native dogwood, Cornus nutallii and Cornus kousa, noted for high resistance to the diseases powdery mildew and anthracnose.  Next year there will be white summer flowers, showy fruit and fall color.

Cornus 'Starlight'

We’re looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild, a boy at the end of the year.  I’ll think about what to plant for him while I’m out watering the trees. . . .

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Late blooming Ken

Tropaeolum tuberosum var. lineamaculatum ‘Ken Aslet’ my climbing, perennial nasturtium finally started blooming on our vegetable garden fence this week.    It’s a reminder to keep up with the plant data base I started just this year.  If Ken had been entered two years ago when I purchased him I could have checked the notes to see whether this year’s late bloom was an anomaly or perhaps whether I have in fact the straight species which does bloom later.   The hummingbirds are back and unbothered by my puzzle.

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Asters, Fall Fireworks

The simple form and  association with meadows make asters a must have in our garden.  I also appreciate the late season boost of color.

Asters are sun-loving and require good drainage – but don’t make the mistake of letting them dry out or they are prone to mildew.  I pinch asters back in early summer but still stake them as they inevitably flop and don’t live up to their potential.   I’ve been able to keep the rabbits at bay by spraying.  So far the deer don’t seem interested. Slugs can be a problem early in the spring.   I’ll be looking to add more asters, particularly A. laevis ‘Calliope’ with purple tinted stems, purple blooms with yellow centers ‘ and A. lateriflorus ‘Prince’ with purple-black stems and small white blooms with a pink center.

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ started blooming earlier than most other asters and is almost finished here.  It is shorter (2-3′), self-supporting, hasn’t been even nibbled by the rabbits and deer here and since it is blue, is my favorite aster.

Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

Aster nova-angliae  ‘Alma Potschke’  is a later bloomer (still blooming here), 3-4′ tall with a striking color in bud and bloom.

Aster novae-angliae 'Andenken an Alma Pötschke'

Aster nova-angliae ‘Treasure’ is also a later bloomer (still blooming here). It grows to 3-4′ tall. Look carefully and you can see the grow-through plant supports that work particularly well with asters.

Aster nova-angliae 'Treasure'

 

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