Recently, my mom was going through her boxes in storage and came across some seed packets that she had forgotten about.
The seed packets were originally purchased by my Grammy. Grammy passed away from ovarian cancer at the young age of 64 in the spring of 1977. The illness took her quicker than anticipated. I was very close to her and felt a deep kinship with her. Her very quick exit from this life left a void in my life and in my heart that still causes me to mourn.
When Grammy's three daughters went through her things after her death, my mom brought Grammy's seed packets home with her. The seeds were never planted--probably unconsciously left in storage as a way to somehow hold on to the garden and flowers that were an extension of who she was.
Aside from looking a lot like her and having similar personality traits, my connections with Grammy were many (which is why I miss her so deeply), but none seem so strong as the gardening connections I have with her. Grammy's garden was where I came to love my favorite flower--the lilac. It was also where I photographed my first hollyhock. And it was where I tasted chives for the first time. I learned to love the smell of hay at Grammy's house. And I developed my affinity for the look and smell of bearded iris there. Because of my special connection to Grammy and her garden, when my mom came across the seeds a month or two ago she passed them on to me.
The newly discovered seed packets alone are a treasure for me. The graphics and typefaces take me back to my childhood. When I flipped over this packet of Shirley Poppy seeds it said that it was packaged for the growing season of 1970! But I also noted on the front that the packet touts that the seeds are "foil packed".
Yesterday, I finally got up the nerve to plant the 38 year old seeds. Poppies do well in our soil and are best if the seeds are sown right about now. So after I completed the planting of the new roses, I snipped open the foil packet within this seed packet to sow them. The seeds had obviously stayed dry because there wasn't any clumping. I sprinkled them around with my new seed sowing trowel that vibrates the seeds through a tiny hole for even dispersing.
Now I'm going to just sit back and wait to see if seeds this old can germinate. If I'm successful with these, I'm going to try out the other various seeds I also acquired from my mom.
Somehow, I'm hoping that my sweet Grammy will angelically kiss the seeds to make them grow. If they do then the Shirley poppies will be dubbed "Elsie poppies". I will definitely be keeping everyone apprised of the "Poppy Seed Experiment".
Writing about being up close and personal with the garden seems appropriate today.
You see, aside from yesterday being a drizzly day the rest of the past couple of weeks have been perfect sunny gardening weather for me. I even gardened yesterday in the drizzle because I just love gardening when its like that. I like the cooler weather of early spring or late autumn for gardening. If it gets too hot, I'm inside staying out of the direct sun (I'm a redhead with the skin to go with it). So since the weather has been perfect for gardening and we're in for a not-so-nice weather system coming through, I've been spending the last 3 days out in the garden getting up close and personal with the soil, volunteers, newly sprouting bulbs, bareroot roses, transplants... weeds.
An aside (or "rant") about weeds: There is a big downside to living in our San Francisco Bay Area micro-climate (Sunset can't decide if it's Zone 14 or Zone 17). We don't ever get a break from weeds--EVER! There's no cold snap to kill everything off so I can start afresh with a clean slate. If the heat of summer isn't encouraging one kind of weed then the rain of winter is encouraging another. Mulch doesn't stop them. Landscaping fabric doesn't stop them. Hoeing just reseeds more than it eliminates. Round-Up and good ole' pulling is the only thing that works. Deep breath...
The annual "haircut" is performed this time of year and that gets me really up close and personal with the garden. I've been "bitten" numerous times by the roses and bougainvillea with the lovely scratches on my arms to prove it. I've pulled fennel seeds and twigs from my hair every evening when I finally acquiese and come in because it's too dark to see anymore. I've filled up our green-waste cans to the brim and had to begin filling the back of the pickup truck with fennel stalks and bougainvillea branches (Hubby will have to make a separate green-waste run--he's such a sweetie). And you know what? I just love all this work! It's absolutely wonderful! I'm tired and I ache in a good way.
I'm pleased as punch that I've acquired five new rosebushes, and they are all in the ground! They are bareroot roses so they're not photogenic right now, but I'm hoping they will be in a few months. The new acquisitions are: Disneyland, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ronald Reagan, Montezuma, and Sheer Magic. These five newbies bring the total count in the front garden to 18 rosebushes. And I think I've finally maxed out and can't add anymore. There just isn't anymore room. Yes, my name is Cindy, and I'm a rose-aholic. Everyone together now... "Hi Cindy".
Anyway, after the rosebushes were in, I filled in spaces with some lovely little violas in one bed and some apricot foxglove seedlings in another bed. I also sowed lots of different seeds that I hope will germinate. I have very bad luck with seeds. I'm crossing my fingers that some will do well so I can have a lovely bed of flowers around the new rosebushes this spring and summer.
About the photos that accompany this post...
I could probably live my entire existence as a photographer with just a macro lens and be quite prolific and happy creatively. Even when I'm not looking through the viewfinder of my camera, I'm looking at things up close and studying details. There are such amazing forms and shapes around me everyday that I am intrigued by. I'm so fortunate to be able to capture them in photographs so I can study them even more once the moment has passed. The photos in this post are all macro "up close and personal" views of the Rosehaven Cottage gardens right now.
First photo: The pond's edge in the back garden is filled with various containers of full sun, heat loving plants. Water crest grows in the water.
Second photo: Bright orange gazanias bloom year round on one edge of the pond in the back garden.
Third photo: The warm-weather lilacs are covered with buds ready to leaf out.
Fourth photo: A delicate snap pea blossom on a vine. Peas grow best here in winter and early spring.
Left: A little dogwood tree I adopted after it was homeless and in too small of a pot. It has revived enough now that I think it may go in the ground this year.
Below: The prehistoric looking leaf of an artichoke. Artichokes love our micro-climate so much that they grow wild on the hills around here.
I always associate camelias with the month of February. Camelia bushes are a popular choice for shade gardens here in our microclimate of the San Francisco Bay Area (very Mediterranean). In other milder microclimates of the Bay Area where there is more fog and overcast days camelias grow in full sun. Regardless, in February there is a profusion of wonderful white, pink, and red camelias in many Bay Area gardens.
When I was attending Mills College in Oakland to obtain my Bachelor of Arts degree, I was amazed at the giant camelia bushes that grew next to the music building. The bushes were 2 stories tall! And in February they would be just covered with blooms! It was such a wonderful sight that I can't even begin to adequately describe.
So you can imagine my delight when we moved to Rosehaven Cottage and found a very mature red camelia bush growing in the narrow 5 foot garden on the north side of the house. Although the bush had been poorly pruned for a number of years, it was not beyond help and it was quite healthy and happy in its location, standing at a height of about 5 1/2 feet.
Since that strip down the side of the house was the only location on our property that could serve as a shade garden, I decided then and there that I was going to add more camelias and have them be the star feature in a gorgeous line--one under each window on that wall. I had (and still do have) visions of them being just as tall as the bushes I loved so much at Mills College.
Why is it that I am so enamored with camelias? Well, I am really drawn to their thick waxy green foliage. The leaves are such a beautiful shape. And the glossy texture is so wonderful to the touch. Even when the camelia isn't in bloom (which is large part of the year) the foliage is still so attractive to me. I also love the buds. They are such perfect symetrical little orbs looking like eggs ready to hatch. I love to see the the petals of the future blooms peeking out of the top of the bud. It means that February's show is about to begin.
The first growing season that we spent here at Rosehaven Cottage was 7 years ago. And the camelia bushes for the shade garden were one of the first major acquisitions I made. The camelia at left grows just outside our living room window. I anxiously waited year after year for it to get tall enough so we could see its blooms through the window. Last year we met that major milestone as one bloom peeks its colorful pink head high enough for us to see it. Last summer it experienced a major growth spurt so that now we are able to see most of the blooms from the window.
When we had the house repainted in the fall of 2006 I was so worried that the camelias wouldn't like being disturbed by the painters' activities. My worrying was all for naught. The camelia didn't care one bit. And just to prove me wrong, it had that big growth spurt I mentioned above. I love how the deep green foliage looks against the butter yellow of our house now. It looks like that's the way it always was.
The one mistake I made when I first started gardening here at Rosehaven Cottage, was to not properly catalogue and journal my plantings. I wish I had. The tags that I left on the camelia bushes are long gone, and now I haven't got a clue what variety each one is, which is really pathetic now that I'm writing a garden-related blog. It's even worse if anyone asks me what variety one is so they can get one just like it. I end up having to fess up and looking rather silly.
I just chalk it up to gardening inexperience. Aside from the small patio garden we had at our apartment prior to moving to Rosehaven Cottage, I had never had a garden of my own. Who knew that I should be writing this stuff down? Now, whenever a beginning gardener comes to be for advice and tips, I try to remember to tell them that they should really keep a garden journal of some sort as they plant their gardens. That way they don't end up with unidentified camelias and rosebushes like I've got.
So with that BIG disclaimer, here is a closeup of this lovely deep pink camelia that grows right outside our living room window. Isn't it gorgeous? Sure wish I knew its name. Sigh...
Regardless, it looks to be well on its way to being one of those huge tall beauties that I wanted even though most of the others I planted are remaining smallish. At least this one and the original camelia at the opposite end of the house are big and beautiful. They'll be like big camelia bookends someday, I hope.
Life has a way of repeating themes and coming around full circle on itself. This Valentine's week has been full of that phenomenon for me.
I've watched with curious fascination as Dexter, our big 17 lb. mancat, has patiently welcomed little Lucy since she arrived in our home back in December. Unlike the other cats, who were wary of her, he wanted to get to know her even when she was confined to her habitat cage while she got well from a near-fatal respiratory infection. Once she was past being contagious, I opened the door to my studio so he could come in and check her out. He would sit outside her cage and patiently let her maul his flipping tail without one hiss. Dexter is still just as benevolent with Lucy's rampunctious kitten energy. As evidenced by the photo at left, she appreciates him and his sweet disposition. She takes advantage of cuddle opportunities any chance she can get. Why not? He's this big furry heater just perfect for curling up against. Dexter has made Lucy feel welcome in what could have been a very scary and hostile environment for vulnerable little Lucy. I don't think she'll ever forget that.
As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I, like Lucy, had the experience of being a newcomer when my family moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area in California after spending 7+ years in Colorado. I had been in Colorado since I was 2 years old. I had spent kindergarten through part of 4th grade there with a few moves mixed in so moving was not anything new. Still, moving is never easy on a child. But my mom always spoke of moving with such enthusiasm that I would be more excited than scared--except when the first day in a new school rolled around. That was scary.
Just like Lucy, I walked into a new California school that could have been hostile and unwelcoming. I happened to walk into that new classroom on Valentine's Day 1977.
As happens when a new student arrives in the middle of the year, there's a lot of first-day paperwork to be done in the office before the student can be shuttled away to their classroom. By the time I was led into my new class, the day was underway and the teacher was in the middle of instruction. When I was escorted into the quiet learning environment, all eyes watched me as I was led up to the front to the teacher. I could feel all the 4th graders' eyes watching me. I had on my "brave face" and smiled when introduced to the teacher and then by the teacher to the rest of the class. Events were a blur as I was found a desk that I could settle into.
When I finally got settled, I started looking around me to get my bearings. It was a nice open learning environment shared by three 4th grade classes only separated by low shelves and partitions (remember, it was the 70's with a lot of new thinking and ideas about education). Each class was a pie shaped area that spoked off a main hub and the students faced the outside of the pie shape toward their respective teacher. After starting out in "home room", students moved between the three 4th grade instructors throughout the day depending on their respective level of learning for different subjects, dividing the entire 4th grade into 3 separate levels for different levels of competence.
Once I figured out what that was all about, I started looking around at the finer details. I noticed that since it was Valentine's Day, there was a line of hand-decorated brown paper bags hanging midway up one wall in my new homeroom. There was one bag for each student with each student's name on the top edge an individual bag. I surmised that throughout the previous few days, students had brought valentines for their friends and hand-delivered them into each bag. The valentines had been given probably a week or so to accumulate. Later in the afternoon, time had been set aside for all the students to have a valentine party where the valentines from each bag would be opened as everyone had refreshments brought in my homeroom moms.
"Oh well," I thought to myself, "Since today is my first day, I can't expect to get any valentines. Just keep a brave face and enjoy the party."
There were still a couple of recesses left in the day before the party. I went out with the rest of the class. I had expected to just hang back and blend into the "woodwork" silently. That was the safest approach to a first day, particularly one in a new state where student culture could be very different. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I was welcomed by smiling and curious students. How friendly everyone was! I didn't feel ostracized at all. My fellow classmates got me talking by asking me lots of questions that they genuinely wanted answered. I was toured around the playground that first day (as well as other days in the first week). I remember vividly who the girls were that welcomed me. We didn't necessarily continue to be good friends over the successive months, but that didn't matter. They were kind to me. That's what mattered more than anything.
Later that first afternoon, when it came time for the class valentine party with the opening of valentines, I was even more pleasantly surprised. Unbeknownst to me, the teacher had assigned some of my classmates to hand-decorate a valentine bag for me! Not only that, but my new classmates had quietly and secretly handmade valentines for me so my bag would be just as full as everyone else's! I was so touched. The valentines I received that day were full of handwritten sentiments of like "I'm glad you're in our class now" and "I'm so happy to meet you". You cannot imagine how much that meant to my little 4th grade heart.
Up to that point, Valentine's Day had always been one of the days I looked forward to the most during school. I had been prepared to dread this one. But instead, my thoughtful teacher and classmates made it the most special Valentine's Day of my entire school experience thus far and for the rest of my student career even through high school. Their thoughtful, kind, and loving acts had a great impact on me. I have never forgotten those gestures from that Valentine's Day 31 years ago.
Interestingly, the story doesn't end there, as there is a very special serendipitous postlogue.
I've been reflecting on the above event the past week because this year's weather is so much like the weather was that year--warm and very full of the nuances of Spring. I alluded to it in a previous post. Shortly after writing that post, I received an unexpected email. The sender was one of those 4th grade girls that had welcomed me so sweetly all those years ago!
Now a mom, this old friend still lives in the same town where we went to school. My younger sister does as well. They became acquainted through their children and through casual conversations the connection with me was discovered. Although we hadn't been close friends, we had gone to school together until we graduated the same year from high school. I have not seen her since.
After this discovery, my sister gave her my blog address in case she wanted to see what I was up to. After reading through my blog and becoming "reacquainted", this friend from my past decided to send me an email just to let me know. The email arrived only a couple of days before the 31st anniversary of when she first met and welcomed me on that Valentine's Day in 4th grade. Once again, I felt her kindness after so many years.
See what I mean about life coming about full circle? How's that for serendipity?!?!
In yesterday's post I mentioned the song Golden Afternoonfrom my favorite Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland. Today, as I knelt down out in the front garden in short shirt sleeves on a 68°F (20°C) "golden afternoon" to plant a flat of lovely delicate Apricot Antique shade violas, the song kept playing in my head over and over again. Let me share the lyrics with you.
Golden Afternoon Music: Sammy Fain Lyrics: Bob Hilliard Performed by: Kathryn Beaumont [Alice], Chorus [Flowers]
Little bread-and-butterflies kiss the tulips, And the sun is like a toy balloon. There are get up in the morning glories, In the golden afternoon.
There are dizzy daffodils on the hillside, Strings of violets are all in tune, Tiger lilies love the dandy lions, In the golden afternoon, The golden afternoon.
There are dog and caterpillars and a copper centipede, Where the lazy daisies love the very peaceful life they lead...
You can learn a lot of things from the flowers, For especially in the month of June. There's a wealth of happiness and romance, All in the golden afternoon. ... All in the golden afternoon, The golden afternoon...
It was definitely a "golden afternoon" with "a wealth of happiness and romance"--just perfect for the week of Valentine's Day.
The little Apricot Antique shade violas had an air of romance about them--the old Victorian kind of romance. Kissed with the dusty light purple of the gemstone of February, the amethyst, the little violas now fill a curving bed in the front garden in front of leafless rosebushes waiting for this year's leaves to grow. Their tiny little faces cupped water droplets after I watered them with garden hose. Like a little jewel in the center of each blossom, the water droplets added a particularly whimsical touch to the lovely blooms.
To my surprise, I discovered that the blue anemone has bloomed again with two perfect blue blooms! Usually it blooms around Christmas (it's a winter flower in our zone) and then it's done. I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that it's going to give me more of its beautiful "blue-ness" to enjoy. In case, you didn't know... I LOVE blue flowers and purple toned flowers. There is something magical about that hue in the garden amidst so much yellow, pink, orange and red. Blue doesn't seem to "belong" in the garden, so that's why I always seem to want to see it there.
The two anemone blooms are adding color to complement the little hyacinth that comes up in the same bed that is occupied by oregano 3/4 of the year. The oregano dies back every winter around the end of November. I wait until the end of January or the first part of February, and then I remove all the dead oregano twigs so the hyacinths have room to come up. I'm so pleased that the anemone have stuck around to join them. I think I've even got some volunteers from last year's Sorbet Mix violas that I planted to fill in the gaps. That would be a wonderful welcome addition too.
Another blue flower that's a favorite for me is the blue hyacinth. My hyacinths are early this year, but I don't mind. It's wonderful to have them here for Valentine's Day because they are a particularly romantic flower to both Hubby and me. We honeymooned in Victoria, British Columbia in late March back in 1998. Part of our visit included a tour of the famous Butchart Gardens. We found many of the beds to be chock full of hyacinths of every color you could imagine! The scent was absolutely heavenly as we strolled by each bed. We returned to Victoria for our 5 year anniversary and experienced that same wonderful display for our eyes as well as our noses. Now everytime the hyacinths come up in our front garden and we catch a whiff of their perfume, we fondly remember our honeymoon and all the wonderful romantic reasons why we fell in love and are still in love. Now you know why the hyacinth is a romantic flower for us.
And of course how could it possibly be a truly "golden afternoon" without my faithful garden companion Tom Tom joining me as I dig in the dirt. It couldn't be. That's why he came out and went on a "toot" while I worked in the garden. When it's this wonderful of a day it is a real chore getting him to come back inside. He doesn't want his "toot" to end--EVER! But I finally managed to catch him and get him back in the house--for which he received a little pile of Whisker Lickin's. Good boy, Tom Tom.
In honor of Valentine's Day this week, I want to write a post about love in a very different somewhat non-romantic form sans the lace and red hearts.
This week marks the 31st anniversary of my family moving back to the place of my birth from a 7 year hiatus in the state of Colorado, allowing me to reconnect with my roots in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I am very fortunate to be a 4th generation Bay Area native born in the same county as my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandfather. My great-great grandparents had immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland with my great-great grandfather working his way across the American continent from east to west on the railroad as a welder and machinist. When he reached the Bay Area, he knew he'd found his second home because it reminded him so much of his beloved Scotland. I have been to Glasgow as an adult and immediately saw the connections between that wonderful city and San Francisco. I can see why he felt he had arrived "home". That's exactly how I felt when we found Rosehaven Cottage over 7 years ago. It needed a lot of love and hard work but it felt like our home. With all the work we've done both inside and out we've definitely put down some deep roots (photo above was taken just yesterday).
This past weekend the lovely purple heads of the crocus showed themselves in all their glory. They are so low to the ground that they are easy to miss if one doesn't know to look for them. But I always watch for them and then point them out to Hubby when they've bloomed. The rich orangey-yellow of their stamens contrasts so strikingly against the blue-purple of the petals that it always leaves me in awe of how beautiful nature can be. I have learned to love the little surprise gifts that nature provides again and again, year after year.
One reason why we named Rosehaven Cottage with that name is because when we came here we discovered a handful of neglected rosebushes that had been chopped back severely but were not giving up. These old roses are not labeled so I don't really know what variety they are. The most "ancient" looking of the bunch has red blooms like a Mister Lincoln. Then down the fenceline is this lovely pink rose that grows like a climber. It doesn't ever seem to stop producing blooms. No matter what time of year, I can almost always find a pink bud or blossom on it. Right now it has a nice collection of heavy pink blooms that look magical in the February sunlight as it shines on and through the petals of each bloom.
There is something about the smell of spring bulb flowers that is so enchanting and soothing to me. The smell of paperwhites, narcissus, daffodils, and tulips all have a distinct nuance but they all say "spring" to me with all the wonderful feelings that association brings. A couple of years ago, I planted some bulbs in the neighbor's yard across the street along the curb in a patch of land that she was happy to have me volunteer to tend. Each year since, the sweet yellow teacup blossoms have come out heralding the full sun that shines on that patch of ground practically from sun up to sun down. As if they've stepped straight from my favorite Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland, they remind me that you indeed CAN learn a lot of things from the flowers.
Finally, there are now roots of a different kind that I have grown to cherish and those are my roots that have begun to grow within the blogging community. Like the arrival of the glorious crocus blossoms that I anticipate so much, I anticipate the arrival of each new comment on my blog and each new post from a favorite fellow blogger. As I drink in the essence of each of you the way that I breathe in the aroma of each distinct spring flower, I am rejuvenated and filled with a renewal that is hard to describe but is real and powerful. Just as I can learn a lot of things from the flowers, each of my blogging friends is a flower that I can and do learn a great deal from.
Here are a couple of perfect examples of this very phenomenon. This last week I received the following award from Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author. Tristi is a very talented published writer who I am honored to have reading my blog. In giving this "You Make My Day" award, she made MY day (which had been not too great up to that point). Her thoughtfulness gave me a certain boost into a more positive direction creatively. Thank you Tristi!
Then later in the week I received the "This Blog is Rated E for Excellent" award from Jodi at bloomingwriter. Jodi is another very talented published writer and gardening expert that I admire immensely and am so humbled to have as a friend. Receiving Jodi's award in short succession after receiving the award from Tristi, really gave me a swift kick in the creative can.
Kylee at Our Little Acre commented recently on how technology has facilitated the forming of friendships across the miles that otherwise never would have happened. I remember reading a post last summer from one blogger who talked about how before blogging she felt so alone in her immediate community because none of the other mommies on the playground on play-day understood what it was like to be an artist. It made her feel isolated and alone. Then after she started blogging, she realized she wasn't alone at all. There were many women throughout the world that understood her and were similar to her in so many ways. It's just that those women didn't live in close proximity to her. Without the internet, she never would have connected with them! I can relate so well to that sentiment. And Kylee's too. Because of this wonderful technology, I now have friends around the globe that understand me. I no longer feel isolated like the "odd one" that no one in the neighborhood "gets". Thank you to all of you for making that a reality! I am passing on the two awards above to every one of you because you all deserve them. Thank you for helping me to feel rooted in something real and wonderful.