It’s October, and a mushroom I don’t recognize has unfurled its umbrella overnight. It’s the most delicate thing, semi transparent like a Luna month’s wing, and it looks like it would glow in the dark.   

| Leave a comment

Peggy Martin, Peggy Martin, Peggy Martin


Stage right

I’ve been trying to get the essence of Peggy Martin into a photograph.

I’ve been trying to get the entire plant into one photograph. 

It’s not possible.

I think this is hilarious.

You want to feel smart? Like you know what you’re doing? Plant a Peggy Martin.

But you have to have a lot of room.


Stage left

This specimen was started by me from cuttings the summer of 2012; planted in our new yard either December 2012 (unlikely, as we moved after Thanksgiving 2012, too late to plant) or more likely spring 2013.  I’ll scare up pictures from last year. She made a nice effect then, but now she’s a behemoth. A lovely, thornless behemoth.


| Leave a comment

Return Of the swamp rose


The swamp rose is back and better than ever. It’s about four feet by four feet now, covered with panicles of 2.5″ semi-double lavender -pink blossoms that the light shines through.

And the fragrance scents the entire yard. It’s a small yard, true. But it smells like heaven.

“Not heavy
Not sensuous
But perilous
Perilous. . . .”

H. D. “At Baia”

Posted in recommended rose varieties for the Midwest/Upper South, seasonal updates, the good news about roses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hail to the Sicilian stonemasons!

DSCN2284I’m laughing my butt off reading Marie Manilla’s The Patron Saint of Ugly, about a character who is both Appalachian and Sicilian, like me.

I do not know much about my forebears from that spiky island, but I know that some of them were stonemasons. And behold, Manilla’s novel features Sicilian stonemasons!

Bob jokes about my affinity for rocks and its origins. OK, yeah, I admit I have a thing about rocks.  I love to seek out ones I can pretty much lift, pry them out of a construction site with the crowbar I keep in my car at all times, carefully load them into the trunk, floorboards, and seats of my tiny car, and then arrange and rearrange them in my yard.

Which brings us to a question:

How many rocks can an out-of-shape woman in her fifties, with a sedentary job, rheumatoid arthritis, and no cartilage in her knees, carry home from a construction site?


This many:


and this many:

DSCN0419Plus this many:

DSCN0418And also these: DSCN0582-001In my former garden on Hambrick Avenue, I scavenged, hauled, and arranged these:

DSCN0916Also these:

back patio w columbine


DSCN0928In fact, the step-like run of rocks pictured at the top of this page owes its solidity to my ancestors. It’s my most recent construction, and it’s also the best. Because I finally got a clue.

Did I refer to Youtube videos on the subject? That would have been wise. But no. I was all high on endorphins from lifting a bunch of rocks. I was not going to take a break and go check out Youtube, get sucked into the internet, and perhaps never emerge.

Did I obtain a book on dry stone masonry? Again, that would have indeed been wise, but again, sadly, no. I was too lazy to go to the library and too cheap to go to the bookstore.

Did a compassionate neighbor give me a few pointers? No.

I asked my ancestors, and then listened for an answer.

And they told me the secret:

Lay each stone so it rests on two other stones.

That’s all there is to it. [Luckily they said this in English, not Sicilian].

The stones up that 45-plus-degree slope are so solid I can walk up them like steps. I  walk up and down them many times a day when I’m out there gardening.

| Leave a comment

Rise ‘N’ Shine


According to , this miniature was bred by Ralph Moore in 1977. It went on clearance at , Bob got it for me for my birthday (mid-June), I stuck it in the ground, and then I left town for a month. Here it is, six weeks later, a couple days ago, flanked by crabgrass.

After a month that contained about 29 days of rain, it should be defoliated by black spot. It is unscathed. It has not bloomed much yet, but things take time to be established. I’ll keep you posted.

| Leave a comment

And the garden looked at the gardener that it had made,


and it saw that she was good.

She laughed and she cried at the birth and the death of a drop of dew.

She filled with the singing the light made

as the leaves breathed it in.

From her porch on the corner of Murray Street, she could see the river.

The black crystals of the road curved out of sight in the sun.

Around her garden the light posts signed the wind

with the oldest sign, that meeting

of the four directions.

The garden looked at the gardener it had made, and saw that she was good.

And the gardener enfolded this knowledge into her heart.

And her heart was filled with such gladness that she wanted

her sisters, and her brothers, and her neighbors, thirsty to hear,

to know what it was

to become a creation

of such a garden,

to know how

those hovering birds would come

to drink and to brawl.


| Leave a comment

What rose gardeners do in winter

besides peruse rose catalogs: We get into houseplants.


Suddenly our living room is The Jungle.

Suddenly our living room is The Jungle.

I do fine with outdoor plants that can pretty much fend for themselves, but houseplants are a whole different ball game, as my dad would say.

I’m the Johnny Appleseed of roses, but I’m more like the Adolf Eichmann of orchids. Sad but true.

Yet hope springs eternal. Although I’ve pledged never to bring another phaleonopsis into my house, which it will never leave alive, I could not resist this cymbidium on clearance in the local Kroger last week. (Kroger is a more hostile environment for plants than my house, even, so it was the lesser evil.  Also I’ve never murdered a cymbidium.  Yet).

So far, so good. Its buds are bigger than they appear in these pix taken about five days ago.

Posted in how to make a space inviting, other plants worth the space, seasonal updates & random musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The secret life of Lulu

My familiar and I in March 2014.

My familiar and I in March 2014.

Bob and I are missing our cat Lulu.  She was our first cat, our senior cat, and she lived with us for sixteen years.  She enjoyed the time she had. She made the best of everything, even when Teeny bullied her into living upstairs in our bedroom for eighteen months. That was the low point.

Near the end of that time, Lu decided she was ready to come down, at first for an hour or so at a time with me there constantly — she would sneak past Teeny and we’d go into the backyard, and then she’d sneak back into the house and back upstairs when she was ready — and then downstairs with us 24/7 again.

Bob was remembering just now how, several months ago, when he started using a squishy silicone toe spacer to protect his broken toe, Lulu was entranced with it (doubtless by the funky, animal smell of the thing).  When he took it off, she would find it and hunt it all over the house,  “killing it” again and again, bumping into furniture and making war cries as she did this.

Mostly this happened between two and four a.m.  Bob had to start hiding the toe spacer when he took it off at night.

I felt, and feel, terrible for her death.  If I’d been paying closer attention, I could have gotten her to the vet sooner and maybe made her more comfortable, if not extended her life.

But just now I got a message on Facebook from our former neighbor Dean Holt: Buddhist, web designer, yoga instructor, multi-talented guy [renovated-his-100-year-old-house-including-installing-new-copper-linings-in-all-the-box-gutters talented], and kind neighbor.   What he told me blew me away:

I was walking with Hilda McClanahan this morning and she had a Lulu story. As part of her Hambrick Ave. forays, Lulu would go into Hilda and Ed’s yard . . . and was friends with Hilda’s Great Dane, rubbing herself on the Dane’s legs and getting a little attention from the humans, too. Now that is something from Lulu’s Secret Life that I would not have expected to hear.

Lu roamed as far as Hilda‘s house?  She liked dogs?

Who knows what else we never knew about her?

This story really woke me up.  Lu had more power to shape her life than I gave her credit for, and she used it.  Her life was richer than I will ever know.

Posted in seasonal updates & random musings | 1 Comment

Attack of the Swamp Rose

swamp rose

Bob gave me the greatest present for Valentine’s Day — a gift certificate to Antique Rose Emporium [] in Texas.  Part of the gift was my getting to choose a rose for our limited space.  He enjoyed my decision-making process:

  • I hoped a species rose might have some extra resistance to the rosette virus, which is really common around here.
  • It couldn’t be TOO gigantic [well, actually, that’s a lie.  There are only a few that would get TOO big for our very limited space].
  • I considered a yellow or a white rose, since I don’t have any of those colors.

As always, I wanted something that would make a good-looking plant, even when not in bloom.

After some serious weighing of options, I decided to buy what is reputed to be a repeat-blooming swamp rose.  [Most species roses bloom once a year, like azaleas].  The swamp rose, Rosa palustris,  is a North American native, and because my dad’s ancestral home is in a Mississippi swamp, Bob calls me “Swamp Rose.”  The fact that this was reputed to be a repeat-blooming cultivar sold me on it.

Good news!  It does appear to be repeat-blooming [blooms on new growth]: it’s already blooming on the new growth it shot out in all directions as soon as I planted it in early May 2014.  This picture was taken late June 2014. And the plant’s form is even prettier than I’d realized — open and airy, with graceful foliage.  It reminds me of Mutabilis, which makes a pretty plant.


swamp rose2

Posted in design rules, recommended rose varieties for the Midwest/Upper South, rose pictures | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Garden design rule: Focus on the places you see most often



For once, I’ve done it right.  I paid special attention to the area around the outside spigot, because — DUH! — I use it all the damned time.  And now every time I see it, it’s lovely to look at.  [The spigot itself is just behind the corner of the house.]

First, I got rid of the overgrown holly bush that scratched me any time I went near the hose.  [Design rule #1 should be, Don’t plant holly or agave or cactus near where you attach your garden hose.]  Then I planted part-shade-loving “Limelight” heuchera, neighbor Nick Petit’s hostas, azaleas, and sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis)that wouldn’t get so big they impede access to the spigot.

Now the area delights me every time I turn the hose on or off.  When I do that, here is what I see:

view from spigot



Posted in design rules, other plants worth the space, Structure | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment