Archive for the ‘reading’ Category

Sunday, 17 June 2018

at home

Rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ and bright blue skies

Midmorning, I started sifting compost from bin two.  My goal was to mulch the edges of the center bed as far as possible.


at least a foot of good compost at the bottom of the bin

I did not get even one barrow full before I gave up and went inside.  It was too hot…in the low 80s.  I worked on billing and blog posts instead, waiting for the day to cool down.

I did not get back outside again till five.

my view while sifting compost

all the way to the bottom of bin two

Bin two was turned into bin one. Bin three will be turned into bin two.

I was able to mulch all down the east side and the front of the center bed.

my audience

And I got my small batch of ladies in waiting planted.

In the evening, because of the extra hot day and because Sunday is the quiet day there, Allan watered at the

Ilwaco Community Building.

fern at the entrance to the library

same fern after cutting off the last year’s fronds

another fern that Allan trimmed up today


Earlier this weekend, I finished the fourth in Virginia Ironside’s Marie Sharp series.  I do hope there will be a fifth one, seeing Marie into her 70s.

I knew exactly which documentary she refers to in this passage:

…The first of the Paradise Lost trilogy.  I have watched them all, the earlier ones twice, and it is a strange thing to find such a documentary enjoyable to watch.

When Marie goes to buy an iPhone:

I am a fan of Piet Oudolf, so i was terribly amused at this passage about a garden made by Marie’s friend James.

Marie follows David’s example and goes on to say, “It’s not like a normal garden, true…

I discovered Virginia Ironside by reading (three times in all) her book about pet loss, Goodbye Dear Friend.  So of course, the passage about Marie burying her cat is perfect.

You might not want to read it; it had me in tears.  It is at the end of this blog post so you won’t miss anything if you stop right here.

I still miss my heart cat Smoky and my good feline friend Calvin and can’t even bear to put their ashes in the ground yet.



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Friday, 8 June 2018

at home

The rain started last night around midnight and kept on and on.

breakfast time and no room for my food

In the midmorning, I went out into it to fill from the rain barrels all my little buckets and (with some help from Allan) all the green jugs.  The barrels had been completely empty and by end of day they were full even after all the dipping out.  I found this little guy floating in one as it filled.  He must have been on the bottom—glad I rescued him in time.

I do so enjoy dipping cool water from a barrel.

Skooter observes

buckets and jugs

I walked around the garden to enjoy its happiness.

the new ladies in waiting

back garden, east bed

Eryngium ‘Jade Frost’

more east bed

Mom’s copper rose

a new lily

Stipa gigantea and Rosa moyesii

cutleaf elderberry, Fuchsia magellanica, Rose ‘Radway Sunrise’

rain gauge as of half past noon

a bogsy wood clearing that needs clipping before it disappears

bogsy wood path that need weeding or mowing

The garden that was battered after last week’s weeding is all fresh again.

unweeded west side border

The white rambling rose below was grown from a cutting from Maxine’s garden…just laid into the soil in autumn till it sprouted…and then from another cutting when we moved from our old garden to here.

In the garden boat, snails ate my smaller cosmos.  And they keep attacking the dahlias so I have these thingies over some of the dahlias so I can put the bad slug bait inside without the cats stepping in it.

Rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

from outside the garden

If I were walking by and looked down the Nora House driveway, I would be intrigued and excited.

Frosty watches me reenter the house.

Now for a reading and Gardeners’ World day.

while trying to read

I finished the book I’d been reading all week at bedtime.

third in an excellent series

In the book, Marie has a health scare.  I am sure most people who have had something that might be, or is, cancer, can identify with this:

I love Marie!  I read on anxiously to find out how she fared.  I was worried about a friend with a similar problem—that turned out to be a hernia, for which we were all oddly grateful.

Marie’s intake for an MRI amused me…

And I enjoyed her enjoyment of the MRI, since I found it most interesting and peculiarly pleasant when I had mine.

This is a rare occurence:

Marie, in her mid 60s,  writes, “I think of…

I think of my grandmother every day also, and am surrounded by her things (furniture, dishes, pictures).

Gene is her grandson, and Jack her son, in this passage that expresses how I feel about my house.

Marie joins Facebook in this group, and I must admit I share her cynicism about happy-all-the-time memes.

I can’t recommend these books highly enough.  As I write this, I have finished the fourth one and I hope there will be a fifth one.

I went on to have a wonderful time watching three episodes of Gardeners’ World.

I happened on an old one that was labeled 2017 but must have been from before Monty Don hosted the show from his own garden, and therefore must have been before he had a stroke and took a few years off from the show.  The setting was different.

My notes:

Rose ‘Souvenir du Dr. Jaimon’ likes some shade.

Stipa gigantea’s common name is ‘Golden Oats’.

Monty says, “You don’t get as many seeds to the packet as you used to.  But maybe that’s a truism about life.”

Thinning carrots attracts carrot fly.

In the evening, Allan and I agreed that we both would rather stay home than go to the Pride parade tomorrow, as we both feel we have so much to do here.  However, we WILL go…unless, as some forecasts predict, it is pouring rain and windy.

By the end of the day, we had had a wonderful 1.08 inches of rain, which will enable us to take Monday off instead of watering planters. Thanks to our having watered planters yesterday, the soil will stay damp even in the thickest of plantings.  The water barrels all were full again.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Allan’s day

This was the last of our recuperation days off.  Allan felt well enough to go boating.  He now has his own boating blog, so here is a sneak peak.  When he gets the full post written, we will share it over here.

At the post office on the way out of town:

Stipa gigantea all aglow against the newly painted wall

In South Bend, he had a treat at Elixir Coffee.

at Elixir Coffee

outside the coffee shop, a doorstop had a bright accent. 

On the way to boating adventure:

A sneak peek of the paddle trip:

Rain in the afternoon…fortunately, AFTER he got out of the water.

Rudder from next door greeted Allan in the driveway when he arrived home…

and wondering if there might be something tasty in our van.

Meanwhile, at home…

I started my day with just two half hour episodes of Gardeners’ World.  The cats also got a slow start:



I then got down to planting a selection of Agastaches (my current favourite perennial) in my garden, along with 20 each of Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud’ and langsdorfii.  It is good to have some sort of continuing theme in a garden that is mostly onesies.

When I went in to get some potting soil in order to start my two window box liners, I found myself sitting down and watching just one episode of Gardeners’ World.  I simply had not been able to walk past my comfy chair and out into the garage to get the soil≥

After planting about 50 plants (and planting, you might recall, is my least favourite gardening thing), I did a project.  Here is a “during” photo:

Where the red lopper handles are, I cut down and, with great difficulty DUG OUT, a good, dark magenta Fuchsia magellanica and moved it to a new area of the Bogsy Wood garden.  It had been planted when the Bogsy Wood edge garden was quite narrow, and now it blocked the view of smaller plants further back.

after, because I did not clean up the mess.

The fuchsia went in here.

A light but drenching rain had began.

window box beginnings

The bulb window boxes will be switched out with the summer planting.

Narcissus ‘Baby Moon’ still going

rainy tulips

I weeded one more garden area of long velvet grass (which had swallowed a small fuchsia, almost irretrievably) in order to plant just one more nicotiana, and left another mess of weeds on the lawn because I had hit the wall of exhaustion and wetness.  I then found the energy to tidy up several pots.

Look how big this tulip is.

A last walk back to the Bogsy Wood…

…still did not inspire me to pick up any debris that I had left behind.

Trowel and Error

My reading has been slowed by watching Gardeners’ World.  When I went indoors, I decided I must finish Alan Titchmarsh’s memoir, Trowel and Error, before returning to GW.

I had last read this book in 2003.

I am always reassured that other gardeners remember plant names better than people names.

On one of his early gardening jobs, Titchmarsh was taught, by a senior gardener named Harry Hollings, how to plant a tree:

Alan writes, “My very first gardening book was Percy Thrower’s Encyclopedia of Gardening.”  Later, Mr. Thrower was the host of Gardeners’ World.  Somewhere in my book collection is this book, that I brought home along with other old gardening books from my trip to England in 1989:

That trip to England was in December and January, so I would not have been treated to any episodes of Gardeners’ World on the telly.

Many years later, Alan Titchmarsh became host of Gardeners’ World, and his cats took the role that Monty Don’s dogs now have.

Alan T. became the presenter when his good friend, GW presenter Geoff Hamilton suddenly died, less than a year before he had planned to retire from the show.

Thrust into the role of host with no gentle easing into it….

I was fascinated to read the inside story of how Gardeners’ World was filmed.

My favourite gardening show (maybe up till discovering GW) was Ground Force, starting Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock, and Tommy. Imagine if it had been like this initial concept:

It was much much better when they had Alan and crew actually making the gardens as a surprise for the owners.  Trowel and Error has a whole chapter on this show AND a chapter on creating the Ground Force garden for Nelson Mandela.

I like this bit about his garden helper:

I also take snails (or ask Allan to take them) for a long walk, and I always wondered if the mice than Allan used to trap and release at our old house were the same ones who perhaps reappeared to be trapped and released just days later. (See Allan’s video, Six Mice to Freedom.)

Alan T. has the same gentle side:

Every chapter of the book begins with a quotation, like this:

I kept meaning to look up all the different books later.  In the afterward, my illusions were shattered.

I was completely fooled.

I then watched another couple of episodes of Gardeners’ World with Monty Don.  I do wish I could find some of the old Titchmarsh shows to watch online.

watching Monty with Frosty

Nigel’s feline friend

the bins!

Monty expounds on the glorious compost bins.

At bedtime, I began the next Alan Titchmarsh memoir, Knave of Spades.  

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow, more planting.




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Friday, 20 April 2018

We are taking three days off to recuperate from a difficult week.

Because the weather was rather chilly, I took the excuse to read.  I have two sets of three books by two authors.

Mirabel Osler and Alan Titchmarsh

More on Mirabel Osler when I finish all three books.

Neither Skooter nor Frosty was interested in the outdoors.

I finished A Gentle Plea for Chaos, then walked to the Norwood garden to plant four ferns.

two sword, one autumn, one maidenhair

At home, I walked around our garden just to show you the real story of how weedy it is.  But first:

Facebook gave me this memory of how the front garden looked this week in 2011, seven years ago, our first spring in this house.

Here it is today (although would be better if I had weeded the front today as I had originally planned).

I had planned to weed this, and had read instead:

inside the front gate, pleased with the growth on this climbing rose

more shotweed I meant to weed today

unclipped sedums!

good: Erythronium in bloom

front garden mess

good: Ribes speciosum in bloom

Ribes speciosum

Allan’s garden has just a touch of shotweed. I love the Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’.

The trick is to give Allan a part of the garden, and he will then keep it weeded.

Allan’s garden

pear tree

bad: unweeded pots of hardy fuchsias

window box

window box two

Compost bin two needs turning, but I read instead.

weedy; I’ve been noticing the dock, bottom middle, for weeks and still not removed it

rain spotted tulips

good: an area I got more or less weeded last week

between the cats, the stump of the smokebush I think I killed by coppicing too hard.  I need to get those pots put on pavers and filled with soil.

So weedy near the Bogsy Wood

the horror of lesser celandine now that I know it is a noxious weed

a huge amount of reseeded poached egg plant, maybe good, maybe bad (with shotweed mixed in)

huge dandelions overtaking an Acanthus ‘Whitewater’

good: my Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’



It has been too wet and slippery to do anything in the Bogsy Wood!

I loathe this pushy native foam flower in the garden.

haven’t deadheaded the hydrangeas yet! Good: corydalis and pulmonaria

the horror of native meianthemum (nature wins again)

lilies looking strong

the future cat memorial garden not worthy of ashes yet

pitiful weedy patio

from the double gate

As I returned to the house, I pondered that it is not that I lack energy for gardening.  I just use it up at work at this time of year, and I usually don’t get my own garden into satisfying condition till the end of May.

Did I weed? No, I started Mirabel Osler’s next book, In the Eye of the Garden, and read 100 pages before writing this and yesterday.

Mirabel on garden photography:

Neither cat had accompanied me outdoors.

Allan’s work in the afternoon

Meanwhile, Allan had gone to the library and done some deadheading at the Ilwaco Community Building and the Port:

(Mirabel Osler does not like heather, which dominates this garden in a plain winter blooming white form. “…..Heather, how it mutilates gardens with its puréed fruit-pulp appearance, its neutered growth and depressing meanness.”)

Dog daisies are budding at the boatyard.  Mirabel Osler wrote a passage about “dog” plants being named as an insult (dog daisies, dog roses, dog mercury).

At the port office garden, all the narcissi needed deadheading.  We are going to replace those old sprawling lavenders soon.

old pot of hostas behind the port office

Tomorrow I may have a lunch with Our Kathleen, and maybe Sunday I will do some gardening…although I confess that reading continues to hold a stronger lure unless the weather is inarguably perfect.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Allan’s cold hit him hard today.  My grandma used to say, when ill, that she was “sickabed on two chairs with my feet on the woodpile.”  Google tells me that the original quotation was “sick abed AND two chairs”, apparently something to do with putting two chairs next to your bed so you don’t roll out.

I worried about work all day and as a result I could not focus on weeding my own garden, until about five o clock, when a cold wind drove me indoors soon after I began.  Before that, I assuaged work worries slightly by going to the Norwood and the J’s garden, both just yards away from home.

Skooter accompanied me to the Norwood garden.

the north side shade garden

Across the street, I weeded the J’s front garden.

But look, one of the three arborvitae at the end is dying from the base up. I have no idea why.

looks completely ominous

So I found this possibly useful post.

Someone might tell me “That is not an arborvitae, it’s a juniper.”  I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to the particulars of common columnar evergreens.

The cold wind that sent me indoors after working allowed me to finish reading a wonderful book by Monty Don.  I wish I could remember which recent book led me to this one.  I got it via interlibrary loan; it came from the Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, which appears to be a linked chain of libraries, similar to our Timberland Regional Library.

Frosty likes dogs.  He grew up with dogs with his previous person, Terry, who died after the dogs did and who passed his cat family on to us.

I was smitten with Monty Don’s writing style.  If I lived in the UK, he would be familiar to me as the host of Gardener’s World.  Oh, how I wish we had more gardening shows to watch on this side of the pond.  We used to, but Home and Garden Television (HGTV) turned into just Home television.  It looks like I may be able to watch Gardeners World online.

I now want to read all of Don’s books.

I was hooked by this paragraph at the beginning:

Because the book reminisces about all the dogs of Monty Don’s life, not just the famous Nigel (who appears with him on telly), there is the tragedy of losing one’s companion, which strikes me hard because of losing my feline friends Calvin and Smoky so recently.  I wept over this passage from The Sword in the Stone.

I liked this passage about having a seasonal pond, as we do out on the Meander Line.

Nigel likes peas.

Nigel also likes apples.

Below: More of the agony of losing a canine friend.  I hope I will feel this way about the place where I will put Smoky and Calvin’s ashes, where Smoky’s mother is already buried.

On changing the garden:

I appreciate that Monty Don is so open about having suffered from depression.  I have ordered The Jewel Garden, the story of how he and his spouse lost their jewelry design business and eventually ended up with a beautiful garden and a prime spot on Gardeners World.

I am pleased to report that after lying sickabed all day, Allan got up in the evening and enjoyed watching some telly (not Gardeners World, unfortunately, just Rachel Maddow and Survivor!).  His improvement, despite still having a cough and sniffles, was remarkable, but I said that we must still have tomorrow off so that he can continue to recuperate.

At bedtime, I began to reread Mirabel Osler’s gardening trilogy, beginning with A Gentle Plea for Chaos.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

You may recall that starting in late 2004 up till just a few years ago, we planted and maintained the gardens at Discovery Heights.  When my knee started to plague me, we passed the job on to a younger gardening business, Flowering Hedge Design (Shelly Hedges and Terran Bruinier).  It is a job that requires a lot of clambering up rocks and hills.  These young women are most capable of such feats.

Terran and Shelly, photo courtesy Flowering Hedge Design

Terran just sent me some photos of their recent work on those gardens.  She says that almost all of the white narcissi are ones that we planted years ago that have naturalized.  It was her idea, back in 2004, to plant all white ones.  Terran and Shelly have removed some of the plants that the deer were destroying.  (I was startled way back when to find that deer eat yew!)

Terran and Shelly have formalized the garden by pruning those escallonias in the lower garden.  I always regretted having planted them so far forward!

Photos by Terran Bruinier:

lower garden, north side

lower garden, south side

lower garden, south side

middle garden

middle garden

upper garden

It pleases us greatly to see these gardens well maintained.  Just keeping them all nice and clean along the front edge is a big project.

More old photos of the gardens in this post: Three Gardens in Deer Country.

rainy day reading

The Monday weather started with much rain and wind.

Skooter snoozing

Allan ran errands, one of which was to pick up Calvin’s ashes at the Oceanside Animal Clinic.  Oh how terrible it felt to put the pretty little box of ashes next to the box containing Smoky’s remains, on the second tier of the table by my chair.  They will be interred in the garden with Smoky’s mother, Mary, when I can bear to do so.

Frosty, the last one of the three cat family, must miss his mother and his brother.

I know that Skooter misses Calvin, because Calvin incited and seemed to enjoy the Chasing Game. And I sometimes found them curled up next to each other on the bed.

I miss having a good lap cat.  Frosty likes the back of my chair, as shown above, and Skooter is not a lap cat.

I began my reading by finished Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, while taking copious notes.

from Saturday night

This was rather shocking to me!

I was glad, later in the book, to see this:

A brilliant bouquet idea:

I had plenty of time left for more reading, and I finished two more books, each of which I had already begun.

I had started with book 2 of a novel series by Virginia Ironside, and then, partway through, I realized I must reread the first one.  I got it from the library:

With that one finished, I returned to the second in the series, which I had purchased.

I will share more when book 3 and 4, which I just ordered, arrive and get read.    I dote on the author because she wrote the helpful book about pet loss, Goodbye Dear Friend.

The sun came out for awhile, much to my dismay.  I kept reading, though.  Allan went out and mowed four lawns, the Norwoods, 2 doors down, Devery’s next door, and J’s across the street.  And the part of ours that was dry enough to be mowable.  They had all gotten so long with all the rainy days (and having to work on the rare nice day).

Norwood lawn

I was worried in the evening because Allan had a troublesome little cough and sniffle.  Oh please please please don’t let us be getting sick when we have so much to do.  (Spoiler: He does have a bad cold now and I feel an ominous tickle in my throat.)

Skooter, hours later

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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A cold and rainy day permitted me to re-read The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham.

The book is out of print and should not be.  I hope it gets republished.  If you are lucky enough to visit Veddw,  Anne’s garden in Wales, she might have copies for sale there.  I found one online, used, without too much searching.

Here are just some of my favourite bits.  With a cat on my lap, I cannot lay the pages out flat. The pages are a bit glossy so you may have to squint a bit to read certain passages here.  It will be worth it and I hope it will inspire you to read the whole thing.

I do love that she used the mulching method to make her large garden, because that is the way I do it, too.

I appreciate the personal revelations:

With a lot of garden to plant, her fondness for variegated ground elder (aegepodium) makes me feel a little better about it being rampant at the Shelburne garden, because that is not a battle I am going to win:

If I came across a a plant that I knew was especially rampant, eradicable and mad I might treat myself, especially if I had read a lot of warnings about it from garden writers. One of the best was a single plant of variegated ground elder, which after a relatively slow start went on to cover the ground in the whole of the front garden.

Later: Part of my ambition is to persuade people to appreciate spreading plants—the simpler, easier, and more beautiful effect produced by some commitment rather than an endless, irritating variety of plants.

Later: I used plants as weapons, hoping they’d rampage away, covering the ground, eating weeds, defying slugs, making me a garden.  I couldn’t afford hard materials—plants had to do everything (not recommended) and two acres is a lot to cover.


Ironically, the day after my rainy reading day, we spent seven hours tearing out a vast swathe of orange crocosmia.  At least I found takers for most of the corms.  Anne likes it:

On page 20, she recommends two garden writers, Constance O’ Brien and Marion Cran and while I continued to read, I got Allan to order me all of their books online.

Marion Cran wrote several books (1930s and 1940s), which Allan was able to find; I got them all and O’Brien’s book for under $60 total and look forward to their arrival.  Now I wish I was in a garden “guild” instead of a garden “gang.”

A theme throughout the book is Anne’s preference for good thoughtful design over plant collecting.  She quotes Gertrude Jekyll:

Now, I am a collector of precious plants and my garden has an awful lot of onesies, so I am not sure Anne would like it at all.  I appreciate her writing for making me think. Yet I am still irresistibly onesy-ing five years after I first read it.


I value her thoughts about death and the garden.  Regular readers know I do contemplate this frequently, maybe because I grew up around old people who talked about it.

In spite of our diversions, we all ultimately find a path to realization of our own physical end.

The garden….throws the remorselessness of time in our faces, depicting in its endless, indifferent  moving on, growing and dying, just how we are fated.  There is grief and struggle and real love out there.

This is my favourite paragraph in the whole book:

Below, on garden touring, garden tour guides, and how gardens get picked (which I like because I have seen some indifferent gardens choses for various tours, even, rarely, and only a couple of times on the Hardy Plant tours):

One of the elements I would like best at Veddw is Anne’s use of words in the garden.


I know what she means about the slight awkwardness; I had lots of quotations in my garden, mostly on the fences, in 2008 and 2012 when my garden got toured a few times, and it feels a bit funny to pause while someone reads it. With me, it comes with hoping that whatever is written speaks to them.  One of the tasks on my to-do lists is to rewrite those words that have faded away.

Anne was on a garden show called “I’ve Got Britain’s Best Garden” in which gardens were actually analyzed and criticized.  She writes that the show could be found on Youtube (in 2010) , yet I was unable to find it.  I long to see it.

You can read part of Anne’s essay (included at a more length in this book) on why she hates gardening right here.

Below, I am interested to learn that her garden is close to the Forest of Dean (because I have been there).  I also do not like to be away from my garden even for one night.  And I DO mind that my own garden will most likely not continue after we are gone.

Below, by Anne’s reflecting pool, at the end of this passage is something I think about if Allan (my spouse and business partner) and I have had a day of much squabbling at work:

On the topic of dividing the garden to avoid squabbling:

One concept I remembered most strongly from my first reading in 2012 was that she does not like an edged lawn!  The text is followed by a photo by her spouse, garden photographer Charles Hawes, showing a lawn with alchemilla spilling over.  (And I tend to get hostile toward alchemilla at times.)

Something I expected to find was a chapter about her method of leaving debris to compost in the garden beds.  I could have sworn it was in the book.  I must have read it in one of her articles, instead, perhaps this one.

Below, I am reminded me of my shock at the number of local gardeners who’ve told me they have never been on a garden tour (when there at least two most years within easy driving distance): A staggering number of garden owners I came across while writing up gardens for magazines absolutely prided themselves on never visiting anyone else’s garden.  And that is unlikely to inspire you to brilliant composition.  Or even, perhaps, to realize that gardens are composed at all.

On two occasions, Anne mentioned Piet Oudolf coming to visit her and I went Squeeee! (I admire him so.) On using grasses inside of boxwood squares (you really must read The Bad Tempered Gardener in its entirety to learn about this and other designs whose purpose is to evoke the history of the Veddw):

This, because it made me laugh:  “You like your succulents,” someone observed one day. How wonderfully patronizing—like ‘”Old Fred, he do like his pint.”

I haven’t even touched on her theme of understanding gardens.  You must read the book; I can’t even begin to quote all the parts that were so educational and inspirational to me.

You can read more online by Anne and others at her aptly named website, thinkinGardens.

In the near future, I will be reading her brand new book, The Deckchair Gardener: An Improper Gardening Manual.

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