Archive for the ‘reading’ Category

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

A sunny day turned reading plans into work reality.   I had rearranged today’s work in order to stay to home because we were expecting a cable telly repairperson in the afternoon to replace our suddenly plotzed DVR box.  I had briefly pondered if it were a sign to give up cable telly and just watch shows online.  I could not find the energy to figure out a new thing so had resignedly waited the two days for a repair appointment.


I planted the Conca D’Or lily bulb into the fire station garden while Allan photographed a couple of Ilwaco houses that are further along with Halloween prep than we are.  (We have not begun.)

on Spruce Street

another Spruce Street house….

…wherein lives a friend sympatico with us (not shown in the window).

I wonder if she had just gotten back from a demonstration we had not heard about?

Allan helped by deadheading at the fire station.

We dug out annoying plants from two of the city planters kitty corner from the boatyard.

part of the boatyard garden

the north side of the boatyard

I once had a garden running partway along the north fence as well as the full length of the east fence.  Only the east garden remains because a pipe laying project about fifteen years ago put paid to the north garden.

A teucrium (?) of great vigor had completely filled up one of the planters, and in another, a golden oregano had repeatedly been crispy by watering days.

Allan’s photo

We had a bag of potting soil that had an unfortunate large vein of sawdust in it.

Allan’s photo

formerly swamped with golden oregano (Allan’s photo)

after (Allan’s photo)

I should have dumped the whole bag of potting soil into the wheelbarrow and mixed it up.

We took the teucrium (?) and golden oregano down to the port and planted it in curbside beds where a reasonably vigorous plant is welcome.

east end

port crew member at work tidying the bank of the marina (Allan’s photo)

Allan at work at the west end

While waiting for the cable repair, we worked across the street from our house at the J’s.

ghosts in Jay and Jodie’s tree

azalea oddly in bloom

Looking at that photo, I think that I will remove those blue fescue.  They are well past their prime.

The only irksome thing about waiting for the cable repair was the several automated phone calls from the company wanting to be assured that we had not changed our mind about the two hour window for the appointment.

The situation reminded me of how people say “First World Problems” about things like cable tv or mobile phone woes.  This excellent essay explains why the phrase is problematic—and inspired me to read the novel Open City by Teju Cole.

In case you don’t click the link, here is part of what Cole wrote about “First World Problems”: “I don’t like this expression “First World problems.” It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.”

Here is another essay on the same topic.

And The Guardian eloquently weighed in right here.

Right after another automated call let me know that the repair would take place in a half an hour, two cable guys arrive, one a trainee, both efficient and pleasant.  The new DVR box is smaller and yet also so subtly grumbly at all times that much later, while reading at midnight, I thought we had a dripping leak somewhere. It was just the disk making a faint racket, the sort of racket that most people would say only bothers me (but Googling proved it does bother other people with sensitivity to noise). Every appliance we have had to replace this year, (refrigerator, washing machine, and now the DVR) is noisier than the old one we had before.  I wish the engineers would realize that quietness is a worthy goal.

I failed, by punching the wrong menu number, to correctly take the survey in yet another phone call right after the appointment was over, so I missed my chance to give the guys a good review.

But I digress.  In one of Marion Cran’s books, she mentions being told that her books were “discursive”.  The kindest part of the definition is “rambling, digressive, meandering, wandering, maundering, diffuse.

After the repair, we had time to garden for two more hours at

The Shelburne Hotel.

I went into the north side garden by the pub windows to dig out the utterly silly echinops, AKA blue globe thistle plants there.  From the original clump I planted in the sun years ago, these had been moved all over in my ten year absence.  They won’t bloom in this deeply shady bed.


I like the short, narrow bladed, and very controllable round-handled shovel when I am working by the old windows.

after plant removal and then shifting of a pulmonaria and scrophularia, both with white or silver leaves.

The last of the sweet peas are still good enough to stay.

looking north

looking south

from the south end sidewalk

Meanwhile, Allan had checked the plants on the second floor decks and balconies.

dahlia on the room four deck

He then sheared down the Persicaria ‘Firetail’ that had been planted under the rhododendron at the south end of the property.


My former spouse and former co-gardener stopped by for a chat.

In the mail today arrived three books by Marion Cran.

Garden Talks has transcripts of her 1920s gardening radio show. She is said to be the first gardening broadcaster.  The little book is Garden Wisdom, excerpts from her various books. Gardens of Character is her second to last gardening memoir.  I set aside the final memoir, Hagar’s Garden, and sat down straightaway to read halfway through Gardens of Character (with a break for dinner and This is Us).

12:30 AM: Skooter usurps the late night reading lap space

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  Sunday, 7 October 2018

Rain brought another Marion Cran reading day.  I will be sharing a great deal of words and thoughts about her when staycation gets underway.  For now, I offer a few snippets as I go along.

She wrote eloquently of finger blight:

A bit later:

Monday, 8 October 2018

I took a very quick turn around the wet garden to check the rain gauges.

much rain!

hips of Rosa rubfrifolia (R. glauca)

Salvia leucantha


And then I was so happy to get back to reading Marion Cran.

I read The Garden Beyond (1937)  about gardens in Kenya.  She visited her daughter and son in law there.  Unfortunately, her books are marred by her belief in the imperial colonization of other countries and the superiority of white English folk.  Oh, Marion. If only we could talk about this. Because in other ways she was progressive and egalitarian, and because her racism was not hateful and vindictive, I have hope that she would have been enlightened had she lived in the modern day.  More of this when I blog about her books…

She made her living from writing.  Her fame enabled her to move in high society, and yet in many ways her heart was with the working class.  Her appreciation for small gardens and those who make them is a thread throughout her books.


I am trying to read her books in order, yet I did not realize at first that ALL her gardening books, even ones that appeared to be about garden touring, continue her very personal life memoir.  Two of the late 1920s books had not arrived yet, nor had the 1939 Gardens of Character, not due to arrive till October 23rd.  (I am mostly getting them from Abe Books, thanks to Allan’s skillful online shopping, and most of them are coming from England.)

So I had to begin the last one, Hagar’s Garden, about her life when she lost her garden due to ill health.  I could not wait till the next book arrived; by then it would be Bulb Time and close to Halloween and if the weather is good, I would have no rest for reading till November.

Oh, how I wept through the first half of Hagar’s Garden; her beloved third husband. a romance that had simmered for years till they married in their 50s, had died after they had just three years together.  Her finances were dire because she had a small heart attack and because of WWII drying up all writing commissions, and she could not maintain her mortgage and so had to let her house and stay with friends.  I was only a third of the way through when my day of reading ended.

I had done the math wrong (not unusual) and thought that when she died two years after Hagar’s Garden, she was 63—my age.  This lit a fire under hypochondriacal me to want to finish the book before I followed suit.  (Then I did the math again; she died at 67.)

Meanwhile, when the rain turned to mist and then stopped, Allan had gone to work at Coho Charters at the port, shearing two escallonias.  He finished in the return of a light mist.


I hoped for a rainy Tuesday to finish the book.  Maddening though it is to read them out of order, it would be a comfort to have three more books left to read after the last harrowing story of one of my worst fears: losing one’s home and garden.

It was calming after that to watch a neatly solved crime in the late evening in the detective series Vera.

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18 Sept: a quest

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Yesterday, we had learned that our local insurance agent could not help us in our quest to get Allan back on Medicare.  (He had asked after almost two weeks of trying to fix the problem himself.) The anxiety about him being uninsured has plagued me every day and night since September 6th when we found out he’d been dropped.  His many phone calls and emails and his sending of a large check to the powers that be had so far had no results.  We were advised by our friend and agent to go to the social security office in person, over in Astoria, even though Allan had been told on the phone that they could not help.

The Ilwaco post office as we began our drive.

After a harrowing (for me) trip with a truck stopping right in front of us on the hill leaving Ilwaco, then the long bridge, and then a wrong turn resulting in a drive on a steep hillside road that I swore to never go on again after visiting a garden there years ago, we made it to the office, only to be told that they could not help.  The nice woman at the desk said it might take two months for the reinstatement decision to be made, and if he got rejected, it could take till next July to get reinsured.  I made her repeat that. Surely she did not mean July.  She did.  I asked her if she had ever seen before the payment mistake that Allan had made.  “All the time!” she said, which made us feel better in a way.

We had both been imagining a sit down in a comfortable office and the Astoria office calling the national office and getting it sorted, rather than standing at the front desk window and getting nowhere.  We were most disappointed.

Since we were over there, we went shopping to see what flower bulbs were at Costco and Fred Meyer (oh, and groceries and cat food).  The bulb selection was poor this year compared to others.  At Fred’s, I saw Halloween cat decor that tempted me till I saw the price of $70 each for the large ones.

I also examined two large gold metal spiders that would have been grand.  Buy one, get one free! But imagining catastrophic medical bills while uninsured, I did not dare fritter away money on Halloween fripperies. (It is a VERY big holiday in Ilwaco and we like to decorate well for our 500 trick or treaters.)  I pictured myself finding a round piece of wood and attaching sticks for spider legs.  Sort of a Blair Witch poverty project.  But I am not very crafty.

On the way back over the bridge, I questioned aloud why “they” make it so hard to get back on Medicare after making an ignorant mistake.  I burst into a brief and intense moment of tears with, “Don’t they WANT people to be insured? What do they want to happen to us?”  I have talked with people who have lost their homes because of medical bills.  A former client in Seaview who had a house (with every cupboard and counter designed for her height) and a beautiful double lot whose garden I cared for lost everything when she needed expensive back surgery.

We had passed two homeless men with a cardboard begging sign on the way to the Astoria office and I had pictured me and Allan in their place.  This is a common fear among our working class friends and acquaintances.  It shouldn’t be.  For our overseas readers who have the National Health Service, here it works like this: When people of moderate to low income retire and are living on social security of maybe $1000 a month, about $175 is automatically deducted for Medicare, and then one must also purchase another $200-ish worth of insurance to fill in the large gaps that basic Medicare coverage lacks.  That doesn’t leave much for household expenses and food. Oh, for the National Health Service!

Back on the peninsula, we went to work for the afternoon.

The Shelburne Hotel

I was concerned that more cosmos might have broken and flopped after the weekend’s rain.  The garden looked fine; we had time for some basic weeding and to re-do two pots on the room four deck, as I had hoped.

One pot had a rose which, although it had earlier produced one beautiful pale pink flower, was riddled with black spot.  I had intended to plant it in the lower garden till I saw how diseased it was.  I did not want its tendency to spread to all the garden roses here and so out it went.

after cutting it back, before working it out of the pot (Allan’s photo)

pot, newly planted, up on the room four deck (Allan’s photo)

The grass in that pot is fiber optic grass, appropriate for a hotel which, with all its history as the oldest continuously operating hotel in Washington State,  now has a sleeker and more modern and cleaner look inside.

I pulled Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ out of another pot on that deck.  It needs too much deadheading for a pot we cannot get to when the room is occupied.  The dahlia will go down in the garden but for now, it stays because it told me that it didn’t want to move today.

replaced the cosmos with a curry plant and added some trailing fuchsia and other little starts from my garden (Allan’s photo)

I poked in a few other little starts of this and that in one of the nandina pots on the hallway deck.

The garden below, after weeding and fluffing and deadheading the sweet peas on the picket fence:

looking north

We needed comfort and so we had a pub dinner. While I am frugal to the extreme about some things, I intend to enjoy good dinners at our favourite places while I still have the ability to do so, and we support the businesses that support us.

salad with fried chicken and a bowl of vegan nachos

that amazing cream cheese tart with blackberry

tiramisu (Allan’s photo)


At home, I began the fourth of Marion Cran’s gardening memoirs.  I know from reading about her that she lost her second garden for several years because of financial and health woes.  That tale will be told in her last book, Hagar’s Garden.

The caption under the frontispiece says “I don’t care.  I have secrets.” What a fascinating woman.  In the introduction, she quotes Rabindranath Tagore’s thoughts about humans and animals:

Marion’s very old 1320 house, rebuilt from ruin:

I like her thoughts about possessions.

Tonight felt like autumn and I put on my favourite long black sweater with its raggedy sleeves.

Clothing is one of my frugalities. I will wear this out in public, even though I am years older than when I dressed in punk rock rags.  I don’t care; I have secrets.







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Monday, 17 September 2018

We are having a few easier weeks before fall clean up kicks in.  I have started the work list for the fall:

Frosty expressed his joy that I’d be spending the day in the garden with him.

Skooter doesn’t get all that excited.

I looked at the hebe which is increasingly blocking our path to the back yard.

I had been planning to leave it till after we had garden company the following Monday.  However, I found myself wielding the loppers today.

I have mixed feelings. Now it would be nice to have a more attractive rain barrel (or at least a level one).  It amuses me to see howthe hebe broke out of a wooden pot that I had set there in autumn of 2010, never planning for the hebe to be there permanently.

(Update: Allan noticed that on rainy days, Skooter now likes to lie under this hebe to stay dry.  I don’t think he would have fit before.)

I then managed to get some ladies in waiting planted.

Epimedium ‘Starlet’

Sarcococca ‘Dragon Gate’

I think I got this one from Dan Hinkley at the Hardy Plant Study Weekend.

I had two new billardias to plant, both purchased from Dan Hinkley back in June.

I planted one in the sun, contrary to advice, and then thought better of it and moved it to part shade.  I don’t want to follow my mom’s example; she used to say she planted plants where she wanted them, regardless of what they wanted, and if they died, so be it.

In the process of replanting, I got the tags mixed up so I don’t know which is where at the moment.

next to the front gate, to the left

My original plan was to have one on each side of the gate.  But to the left, below, I had planted in full sun.

So that one went off to a shady area in the back garden.

Quite possibly ‘Wills Track’ is now planted under the big rose arbor in back garden.

With daylight waning, I returned to reading Marion Cran.

As her third memoir begins, her husband had left her for ““one less belligerent, an alien beggar maid much younger and nicer-looking than this old wife”, and when the lease ran out on the garden and home she’d written about in her first two books, she had to find a new abode and start a new garden.  Even though her new home was ancient in structure and in terrible disrepair, I think the title has a double meaning.

I do love her so.

My favourite garden writers are the ones who lift that veil and let the garden book also reveal their lives.  Monty Don does this and so does Kate Llewellyn.

I finished the book and then caught up on the daily August entries of the Tootlepedal blog.  His blog is what inspired me to write every day.

Frosty, me and Mr T.

With a big stack of books to read still on the table and 20 suspended holds at the library, and with several blogs by others to catch up on, I am longing for bulb time and fall clean up to be over and staycation to begin.  Two and a bit more months of work stand between me and two months of reading time.




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In the effort to catch up in book reports, I will begin with the book I recently finished.  (This means I have skipped over the two Morville books by Katherine Swift; I hope to catch up on book reporting later this autumn.)

The Prickotty Bush by Montague Don

Those who have read Monty and Sarah Don’s The Jewel Garden know that they loved and lost a garden due to financial woes, long before Monty was the famous garden show presenter that he now is.

I read The Prickotty Bush, the story of that garden, slowly over a few weeks of this exhauting, rain-free summer, just a few pages before bedtime.

Its somber cover goes along with the somber subject of a garden under siege by the bank and an obsessed man trying to make a garden as quickly as possible.

Here are some of my favourite bits:

On the imposition of order by pruning:

Also known as Something Shiny Syndrome:

The bullying wind:

On doing it all oneself:

Interestingly, in one of the next books I read, Marion Cran wrote about the same thing.

Below, I identify with Montagu’s urgency.  I felt, at age 55, when I started the Lake Street garden, that I had to get it laid out the first winter during a two month staycation, no matter what the weather.

30 December 2010, gardening in ice-crusted soil

On time in the garden (shared because I love what he says about human aging):

On how to look at your garden:

On garden design:

On plant names:

Friday, 14 September 2018

Frosty rejoiced that I had the day at home.

He was vocal about it.

Rain gauges from last night:

Even the slowest filling rain barrel was almost full:

I think I might need to remove a hebe.  I set it in the spot below, in a wooden planter, and it has rooted into the ground, broken the planter apart, and is about to block our path.  It pulls debris out of the wheelbarrow when I pass by. And yet it is so grand.

From my window I had seen an exciting glow:

Kniphofia ‘Earliest of All’

I had tried in late winter to divide it and transplant some to the center bed.  So far, this is all the transplants have done after many months:


My goal today was to deal with the basket plantings brought home from Long Beach.

In bin two, I had a pile of all green debris on top of brown.  I wanted to layer them, green and brown, into bin four.

Four hours later:

I got just this much compost from bin 2, which had not had much time to decompose since the last time I turned it.

Because I feel anxious about the financial aspect of retirement, I rejoice in any compost that I can make instead of buying mulch.  It’s good practice for more frugal years. Compost turning and sifting is an activity that relaxes and pleases me ever so much.

After a couple of rains, the rest of the basket root balls will be easier to break apart.

I wish I had a before photo of where Allan helped me dig out a big orangey grass that had seeded into the front of the east bed.  I needed some room for other plants, and have many others of this grass that I originally got from Pam Fleming’s former nursery.

left, some of the many that are left; right, a new empty space (not for long)

Salvia africana-lutea and an matching spider

Saturday, 15 September 2018

At last, I had a glorious rainy reading day, all Marion Cran.

First, I went through my book marks in her first book, which I finished two nights ago,  to photograph my favourite bits to share in a later post.

When I first opened my used English edition of The Garden of Ignorance, I found these inside:

All the way from Old Blighty, perhaps; there is nothing on the back of the picture.

Today I read all of The Garden of Experience and more than half of the third book of her autobiographical series, The Story of My Ruin.  She will get more than one of a series of blog posts when I have time to write more about the summer’s reading.

Here is just one excerpt that echoes Monty Don’s words about having to make one’s garden all by oneself.  In Cran’s world of the 1920s, that meant with the help of a gardener, but the garden owner also knew where every plant was and did much of the work herself.

I hope to offer you many more shared thoughts about Marion later this year.  Meanwhile, I enjoyed the endpiece to The Garden of Ignorance:




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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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