When did you last take time to lie back
to watch clouds
and hawks soar?
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Peony season ended yesterday with the last stems going home with market shoppers. Over 700 stems were harvested this year, despite crazy spring temperature swings.
I thought every blueberry flower was frozen during a late March freeze and I fully expected a ruined harvest. Behold, a few weeks ago fruit formed and swelled although I rarely saw a pollinator.
So begins another harvest challenge..wild birds appear to be especially hungry this spring and despite my efforts to foil winged and four-footed marauders, I regularly notice clever catbirds, robins, and one blasted squirrel climbing under the tulle, metallic ribbon, and whirligigs. “Ha!”they say. “On berries we will gorge!”
Now I will share images of what’s blooming here at Swallowtail Cottage this month.
Here at Swallowtail Cottage, in zone 7a, the first nesting season is now complete for the Carolina chickadees, Eastern bluebirds, and Northern cardinals. The three-week old cardinal chicks have found my feeders and entertain me with their antics. Sadly, one cardinal chick appears to have wing issues end I think it cannot fly. I shall monitor the situation as it visits the feeders and will contact the Wildlife Sanctuary for advice.
I regularly chase off the Brewer’s Blackbirds, cowbirds, and jays who invade my feeders and terrorize the new resident chicks. Tufted titmice continue their quiet routines, one Ruby-throated hummer visits the feeder frequently, House and Goldfinches continue to annoy me, Carolina Wrens are scarce, Brown Thrashers are beautiful and elegant, the occasional Chipping Sparrow makes an appearance, and my beloved Red bellied woodpeckers astound and delight. I envy their ability to fly, yet rejoice in the fact that I have arms, hands and fingers…
Happy and bountiful spring to your, my followers. I always enjoy hearing from you.
PS. WordPress just informed me that this is my 200th post. Shall I continue or retire?
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Saturday’s market began as a quiet, misty morning. Following many days of rain, the variation was agreeable. Being Mother’s Day weekend, I took many pies and buckets of fragrant peonies, conditioned all week-long for prime time.
Early sales were unremarkable and I was beginning to fret. Then a high school friend of my older sister and trusted real estate broker in this area arrived to collect the KLpie and peonies I reserved for her as a gift. After battling breast cancer, endless chemo, and reconstruction in the past three years, her cancer has returned with a vengeance and she told me in a phone conversation that she is terminal. This morning her walk was strong, her eyes bright, and she greeted me with a warm hug and a joke about the side effects of medical marijuana. That was an emotional visit. She is the mainstay of her large family and will be greatly missed by family, young grandchildren who will never know her sense of humor, and all who know her.
Later I noticed a couple who I recognized from television. I have never seen them at market before. They were the parents of a Virginia Tech student who was brutally murdered after a UVA concert in 2009. When the remains were finally discovered in a field south of town, the family had closure, yet the mother has never stopped petitioning for her foundation Save the Next Girl. Today the mother was dressed head to toe in black and looked so profoundly sad. When they passed me for the second time, I reached for my clippers and trimmed a few of my prettiest peonies and caught up to her. Not knowing what I would say, all that came out was, “we have never met…” and I choked up, gave her a hug and walked away, but not before she said, “God bless you.”
Returning to my booth with tears in my eyes, I quickly spotted the owner of the restaurant where I sell my KLpies. He was with his new wife and their one month old daughter, who slept snugly at her breast. He is a big fan of my pimento cheese and came for another tub. Why he did not spring for a sleeve of my beautiful peonies, I do not know. After they walked off, I grabbed another bunch of my peonies and caught up with them. She was delighted and he seemed touched too.
Back at my booth again, a three generation family arrived asking details about my KLpie. Following my spiel and their purchase, I noticed the rather frail elder in the group was clearly disengaged. I pulled out a pretty single flower and walked to her and said, “happy mother’s day!” Her face lit up, she nearly blushed, and the entire family grinned from ear to ear.
I ended this day of intense sales of pies and peonies at noon. In fact, when I later counted my till, this was the largest grossing day in my entire seventeen years at City Market! And I cannot remember a more emotional one.
Simple gestures reap great rewards and today I was reminded of this rule. I recuperate with a warm heart and hope that my gardening and kitchen efforts made a small difference in the lives of those who I encountered.
I am blessed to know health, the simplicity of routine choices, and delight in greeting the wild birds who have sanctuary in my gardens.
Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
“I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden.”
– Abraham Cowley, 1618-1667, English poet
If you are a homeowner, April not only brings spring flowers, but lots of chores…check out this link below…just click the photo:
Yesterday was the second time I mowed this month…and edged, and weeded. Sadly, it appears that I will be fighting wild violets again this year in the turf…Boo! Although violets (not the edible violas or Johnny Jump Ups) are pretty, they will spread rampantly and kill all turf in its path. I learned the hard way…last season. I am not a fan of turf, yet since I own 3000SF, it must be cared for. Since the use of chemicals is taboo here, one must be extra clever to stay ahead of undesirables that blow in and take root.
My neighbor’s field is awash with wild violets and the explosion of seeds manages to permeate my stand of thick cypress trees and attempts to conquer my tidy gardens. Last year I resorted to drastic steps. Did this fix the problem? One stroll into the turf last week, showed a healthy stand of the dastardly plants…all abloom and happy. Oh how lawn care products lie!
Three years ago, I nicknamed my house “the needy box.” This month marks sixteen years here (where does the time go??) and always, always, there is something to do. Can one actually divorce one’s home? IF so, I want one…a divorce.
IF I continue to stay, most of my major improvements since 2001 will need a redo beginning in six years. I admit, I am not ready, willing, nor is my pocketbook. “I ain’t in love,” as some country song wails. With real estate currently a seller’s market, I regularly fantasize about moving, even catch myself steering the car into new parts of the county…looking for eureka! Yet the dilemma remains…where to? Little real estate remains affordable in the US (under 300K), and regional taxes or health care deficits can take a bite out of the relocation dream.
When I shop for converted warehouses around the country, they are there. But who wants to live in the snow belt? If the warehouses here in my area are ever converted, they will become, as most other real estate here, half-million dollar abodes.
So for now, I remain on my little half-acre, not far from town, where birds, flowers, quiet, and sunshine are regulars. Deep in my soul, I wish for continued inspiration and stamina. Today, the growing season begins again…in central Virginia, zone 7a.
Let it be gentle.
So I am off to open closets, vacuum velvet and linen draperies, wash cabinets, and polish silver whilst thinking of Cinderella when she “…wakes to find sunshine bright and all the meadows white…”
What does spring look like in your part of the world?
Copyright © 2017 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
Take a few moments with your second cup of Monday morning beverage and dream of how a week or a lifetime would look/feel like here…
What do you like most about this slice of Italy? Would you have the patience to take on such a project?
As I ponder yet another house project here at Swallowtail Cottage, a visual pause permits contemplation and inspiration.
Happy February…I see signs of life in the gardens, and the wild birds continue to keep me company…77F here yesterday…much too warm. I also need to find out who is spying on me at night with their drone…I thought a plane was about to crash, then noticed the lights were hovering just above my privacy fence!
Posted February 2017
Winter is my dormant season when I have time to hibernate with good books, good movies, and good searches on the Internet…
here is a good garden find:
And if you are in the mood to root around your closets, here is another good project for the dormant season:
IF I lived in my perfect world, this is what my home would look like…
yes it would…
Finally, if you love your photos and are in a techy mood, try these ideas:
How are you spending your dormant season?
My central Virginia gardens endured one of the hottest, driest summers in recent history.
Since most of the fifteen-year-old landscape is well established, only the few new installations required weekly monitoring. The basement dehumidifier supplied a consistent 2-gallon supply of free water daily, greatly reducing the labor intensive task of hose dragging.
I gave up raising home vegetables in 2014. Too many persistent insects prayed on tender leaves, leaving undesirable remnants. I fully support organic growing methods, yet for the effort involved, I would rather spend my time tending the heirloom daffodils, peonies, and lilies that reside here. These spring beauties bring endless joy to me and my market customers come April/May, and by the time June heat and humidity build, I am spending only minimal time outdoors.
Gardening during cool temps from November-March soothes my soul. The tempo is slow. The air is crisp and clean. I add to my perennial collections, as fall is planting season. And above all, the dastardly biting insects are absent and I once again enjoy the outdoors.
This month the arborist arrives with his bucket truck and helper. He annually sheers the 135 Leyland Cypress that border my property. This year I am tasking him with drastically reducing the elevation of the rows…tough love. Over the years, they slowly crept up to twenty feet, a height I no longer desire. Soon entire row at the back will be totally eliminated by the power company, as maintaining it is now unsustainable and my splendid privacy fence doing a fine job.
As of today the house and shed are washed/painted/caulked where needed. The roof chimney and vents are caulked and painted. The patio furniture has a fresh coat of paint (yes that DTM paint project two years ago was a miserable failure.) The windows are washed inside and out. 23′ of deer fencing is installed in the lower corner of the garden to close a gap. Three arborvitae and a Kousa dogwood will replace an ancient dogwood (Cornus florida) and an unimpressive japanese maple. Eventually this new installation will screen the deer wire.
THEN, on the fifteenth of November, I shall have knee surgery…just a repair for a torn meniscus.
Yes, gardening does take a toll. Perhaps last November’s foundation planting did in my knee. That two tons of river rock did not seem that difficult, yet perhaps it was the eleven hours it took to prep/plant the seventeen shrubs. Ahh, November.
A time to complete chores, reflect, relax, and bask in the glow of a dreamy winter ahead.
Copyright ©2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
There is one word that describes the month of August in central Virginia… steamy. Not unlike steam room cloying temperatures and humidity with dew points in the 70’s.
This year does not disappoint. Any Virginia gardener knows this month requires resolve and fortitude and multiple trips to the shower. If Mother Nature holds back quenching storms, this gardener must rise before dawn to drag hoses around for blooming plants, inviting nectaring insects and butterflies to have sweet tastes. Newly added plant material must be monitored for even moisture, if they are to survive and put down healthy root systems.
Despite these character-building conditions, I want to share with you the beauties that dot my landscape this month…
Twice per week this time of year I run errands and make deliveries very early, then confess to enjoying short afternoon naps in the air conditioning. Heat is hypnotic. Reclined on the loveseat, dozing between paragraphs of a Baldacci novel, I later rise and do indoor chores. Then around 7PM I dress for insects and head out weekly to mow and perspire. Soon. Soon. Very soon, there will be lower dew points and garden clean up, as the blooming show will be mostly over until next spring. And this gardener will sigh a large exhale.
Thanks for reading along. Your comments are always enjoyed.
Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
and hanging on and letting go…
As I flailed around during May, reeling from Mother Nature’s multiple challenges while wringing my hands as beloved plants took hit after hit, I reminded myself: #1 I have no control over Mother Nature, #2 all things are temporary, #3 a gardener must be resilient.
My love of the earth and passion for most things beautiful and fragrant, began decades ago. Before the age of seven I remember lying under the tall patch of blooming Persian lilacs at our Long Island home, content never to move again.
At age eighteen, I left home for college, and was away from lush gardens. I quickly learned that a sunny park across from my dorm could fill my need for green. As a BFA graduate, my first job took me to Portland, Oregon where I was mesmerized by the artful Japanese Gardens and the historic Portland Rose Gardens. I could have stayed there forever.
Alas, years later, with roaming days behind me, I found myself working on Capitol Hill. Whenever possible during lunch hour, I strolled the magnificent grounds of Congress designed by Frederick Olmstead, and frequently lunched on the edge of the marble fountains outside the Supreme Court. Those were the days.
In 2000 I departed the urbane, and put down roots at my first country house. The abode turns out to be a needy box, yet the half-acre provided me with a tabula rasa. No more containers on the postage stamp balcony.
Once the mistakes of former owners were obliterated, my gardening intuition prevailed, as it does today, sixteen years later. Following numerous consults with garden experts, I quickly surmised that my intuition was the light to follow. Recently, as I glanced at my archived plant tags, I removed 50% of my original purchases. Either the plant tags lied and specimens quickly outgrew their place, or plants failed to thrive without frequent spraying. As a master gardener who is intolerant of needy plants, garden edits are becoming an annual ritual.
Hours in the garden provide solitude amongst the songs of wild birds, handsome toads, and the occasional reptile. When the sun rises above the cypress trees, I step indoors and enjoy views out every window. The passage of time in my gardens is what sustains me. The beauty of thriving plants inspire me. Ten thousand photographs later, I attempt to share moments of bliss.
Every garden reflects the gardener, and often inspires on well after the person who tends it; or for that brief moment in time, a place comes alive in this time, and perhaps lives on in memory.
Planting and working the soil teaches us that there is hope despite adversity, that during the most difficult times, all things are temporary, and as in life, a gardener must learn to accept change, hang on to every fleeting moment when perfection finds its way, and to let go with grace.
Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved