Sunday, July 8, 2012


Plants. We think we know them and the deeper we dig into their lives, the more we are taken by surprise. The name Delphinium (common name Larkspur) comes from the Latin or Greek for 'dolphin'. Shape of these showy flowers is said to resemble the dolphin's bottle-nose. Actually, the plant is a member of the buttercup family. Once the plant grew wild in cornfields, though they are rarely seen nowadays in that setting.  The plant is highly toxic to cattle until late in the season when the poisonous alkaloids are less potent. Odd then that in ancient times the plant was used in herbal remedies for dropsy and to prevent scorpion stings. In California, this magnificent flowering perennial is on the endangered species list. I stood in awe at a clump of them in a  rose garden at lunch the other day. Not even the roses for which the restaurant was named could match the delphinium's regal splendor. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There is a bird's nest precariously wedged between the side-door frame and the porch light above it. Yesterday a wild high-pitched chorus of chirps started from that general direction, would fall silent, then begin again. Mama Bird must be feeding her brood. I didn't want to disturb the domestic bliss. Instead, I found myself singling out a photo of my favorite garden statue of St. Francis with the birds. It has a chip or two, is showing its age. But all around us in the garden, the love goes on. Season after season.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The yellow ladyslippers down the block in the Memorial Garden along the shores of Little Traverse Bay are in full bloom. A member of the orchid family, the plant is known for its exotic pouch-like blooms. When insects wander into the heart of the showy flower, they cannot climb out again without fertilizing it. The stuff of fiction. Love, sex, passion and intrigue in the garden. Who would have thought it?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I just spent three weeks gardening with my Mom. She will be 95 in August and her sense of garden design is as wonderful as ever. Her front yard beds are on level ground. Navigating them is relatively easy. In back, she is coping with a short but steep berm. Pine needles, tree roots and layers of mulch and compost make the slope treacherous to navigate. Rather than stop gardening, she let the earth talk to her and gardens accordingly. Hostas thrive in the mixed shade. Vinca races toward the sun on the one end, but other groundcovers stay put. The birdbath was attracting large crows that drove out all the songbirds.She has installed a geranium pot instead. Gardening is not a constant as we age. Neither is life itself. Mom handles both with grace and ingenuity. A memory I will treasure always.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The sundrops are blooming in Wisconsin. Alongside them in my Mom's front garden, two stands of self-seeding "pinks" have reached their peak. Those sturdy, no-nonsense perennials take me straight back to my childhood and memories of plants that I have come to count among my friends. A member of the primrose family, sundrops punctuate the green of the garden like coarse-ground pepper on a summer pasta salad. Exotic hybrids may come and go, but sometimes the old familiar is best.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The side-yard is amazing after all the rain. The weigela is in riotous bloom. The delicate heads of the climbing hydrangea on the end-post of the pergola are showing signs of doing the same. Change is in the air. This is our last spring in this lovely place. New adventures await. To grow is to gain and to lose, at once to mourn and to dance. What better place than the garden?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I was just planning to go check out my latest mulching project, when half-way down the stairs to the garden, I saw this. Speechless, I just stood there, then went to get the camera.  It has been raining non-stop. The clematis shouldn't be in bloom yet. But on this humid May morning, they were.  It was like wandering into paradise. Raindrops are clinging to the leaves. Those flowerheads are larger than my extended hand. I could sense the Divinity passing through the garden in the cool of the day. And I was privileged to witness the breathtaking sight.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Iris, the storied fleur de lis of French royalty and one of my perennial favorites, are making their extravagant presence felt in the yard right now.  Early spring bulbs and other bloomers may kick the gardening season off with color and flair. Still, I can't help but feel they are no match for the iris with its delicate-veined petals and the velvety striping at the flower's heart. Even after the blooming season is past, the spiked leaves add so much zip and zing to the textures of the garden. Meanwhile, rains, heavy at times, are forecast.  Now or never, I thought---time to race out and capture the Siberian variety along the fence before they are beaten down and need to be dead-headed.  Carpe diem.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I went to lunch with a friend today. The sun was shining and warm after a week of rain. We settled on a restaurant along Peconic Bay. When we arrived, a professional gardening "intervention" company was replacing the dead kale and fall mums with a whimsical assortment of grasses, johnny-jump-ups, salvia and dwarf bushes. Even the thought of food couldn't stop me from rummaging in my purse for the camera to capture the moment. Beauty can thrive in even the tiniest of places.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ode to a Long Island spring

The lilacs are in bloom...wow, the perfume is heady after all the rain we've been having. Even as we contemplate with excitement our upcoming fall move to Tempe, AZ, there are moments that leave me feeling wistful. This is one of them. The wisteria is creeping over the garden gate and has become a thick ceiling over the pergola. I will miss this North Fork Eden of ours. But then I think of the adventure ahead and a whole new world of plants that await! 

Back again...after a year blogging for NORTH FORK PATCH, I'm back on my own. With a move to Tempe, AZ in the near future, my gardening experience is about to take a quantum leap. A whole new world of flora and fauna is opening to me. Combined with my summers gardening in Michigan, the prospect of whole new gardening horizons is truly exciting. A California friend gave me a cool cactus to get me started. Right now it is sprouting like mad in the window of our New York apartment. This is only the beginning.  Stay tuned!!!