Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Blues in the Garden

When friends and relatives visit the garden they often ask if I have begun to paint again. My husband is generally the first to say, She has been painting for years now, just not on canvas, but in the garden.

It has been my canvas for the past ten years or more, and although quite large in comparison to a 36" x 48" painting, the principals of a good piece are similar. It is a composition of elements that work together: color and those values and hues; space, shapes and texture, which together offer contrast, balance and harmony, rhythm, movement, and repetition.

There is great range in our garden's palette of color, but one of my favorite colors and variations of that is blue. The blues in the garden, the combinations and contrasts, pose striking possibilities.

Campanula lactiflora 'Pritchard's Variety' with its clumping bell-shaped flowers love the brightness of a sunny day as well as its companion poppies and lilies, while I hasten toward the shade where I will find the large tubular bell-like flowers of Campanula latifolia 'Brantwood' standing tall and outstretched beneath the Magnolia stellata.

What would a garden be without a focal point of the magnificent Delphinium stating its presence?

A near true blue and flowering from late May through July is this favorite Geranium 'Johnson's Blue', as seen in the dappled sunlight.

Accompanying the Alstroemeria (Peruvian lilies), an outstanding favorite is Salvia patens (or Gentian sage), an intense royal blue and an unusual sage in that it grows from tuberous roots.

The Queen of Herbs, true lavender, is throughout our garden, and as you walk along the paths its fragrance wafts throughout the air should happen to brush against it.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Blue' happens to be my favorite as well as that of the Painter Lady.

This canvas is one that lifts my spirit and senses at every turn.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Thing, Then Another

If it's not one thing, it's another. Those are the joys of being a homeowner, you say?

We have just a few finishing touches remaining for the kitchen-great room. An area rug has not been found, and the cabinet above the refrigerator has yet to be retrofitted. There are a few smaller things which will require some attention, but overall we are so very pleased with the results of the remodel. Each morning when we head in to get our first cup of coffee, we smile and feel the pleasure of a near completed task. The material used is timeless and clearly will be here beyond our lifetime.

But as one project is done, another raises it's hand to be recognized. That is part of maintaining the value in ones home, is it not? This, however, should prove to be insignificant compared to the renovation.

The ledge around our Koi pond has shown signs of wear over the last several years, a gradual deterioration of the mortar and stone. Upon assessment it appeared that we might get by with replacing about 30 of the stones.

We had a young man who had done stone and tile work take a look and yes, he thought it would take about 2-3 days to remove and repair the damaged pieces, a reasonable task and limited expense. We shopped around at several places and finally found something we felt would tie-in, a petrified seashore natural ledge stone, one similar in value and color and that would complement the existing ones. A ton was ordered and delivered, and work began.

As the first few damaged stones and loose mortar were removed, larger portions of the structure began shifting, falling apart. Well, you know how that goes . . . the best laid schemes. There was no way of salvaging larger sections. . . it all had to come apart. The good news is the majority of the stone cold be cleaned and reused.

My only disappointment is that the slate blue paint color turned out to be more a robin egg blue. When we returned one afternoon, it had all been applied. It looks fine, just not what I had anticipated. For now the color remains. . . perhaps next year we can add the more subdued tone. 7 days later, this project is complete!

You're going to find this hard to believe, but the deck that was on this house we bought 15 years ago and that we moved out into the garden and over which we built a pergola and upon which a wisteria grows (I should say consumes rampantly), well, it's beginning to rot. I suppose if I were exposed to the elements for 25 years, I might be showing some decay too. Don't even go there.

Oh! where are the Koi? They and the goldfish have a new home. Friends of ours have a reservoir with fish of their own and now an extended family.

For years we have struggled with the raccoons and Great Blue Heron, both of whom have considered this their personal feeding ground. It seems the heron would make this a stop along the way for a snack prior to continuing toward the lake. I loved watching him and his maneuvering (that is another story), but the only thing we could do was net the pond for 3-4 months each year in order to keep the fish safe. Now that was attractive!

The gauntlet was brought down this spring. We went to feed them and Mama (the robust two foot plus beauty) was gone! She had been in our care for 14 years and was here when
we purchased the property, although we didn't know she was here for the pond had been neglected and well, I won't describe the condition under which she was living.

So it was time to let them go and be where they could dive to the depths and escape the clutches of their prey. We visit from time to time and say hello to Andros (an orange and black beauty who chose not to participate in this photo op), and oh look, there's one of Mama's offspring in the lower center of the photo.

What joy they bring.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

We invited our friends Aaron and Joan to accompany us on a short trip to the coast a week ago. Having visited neither Seaside (the end of the Lewis and Clark trail) nor Astoria (on the Columbia River) in the past, this was an opportunity to do so. Following the comfortable drive and site seeing expedition, we arrived at what would be our evening accommodations, then had a nice fresh seafood lunch at Norma's, just down the block.

From our room. . .

Since much of the afternoon and evening remained, we returned to the car and headed for Astoria. Other friends had recommended we drive across the bridge into Washington, so we followed that advise. . . an exciting crossing as we accessed the ramp, circle about and climbed upward. I was reminded of being atop a ferris wheel, a feeling I must admit which causes my breathing to become altered.

We descended the spanning architecture, crossed into Washington and turned left paralleling the water for about 13 miles. Much of the area appears uninhabited, but we passed through a few tiny towns and saw signs for fresh fish and crab. "Look, Patty's Fresh Crab, cooked", and a U-turn in the road took my husband only a moment.

We purchased 4 of the largest crabs I had ever seen and a little cocktail sauce for some dipping. Surely it was time to head back to our unit with a short stop at the grocery for fresh lemon and a few other items which would make a meal complete. All thoughts were now on the newly acquired cargo.

What fun and such fine cuisine! Brie, sourdough bread, nuts and wine. Then crabs and a little more wine! It doesn't get any better than that, unless of course we are talking about Maryland Blue Crab and beer! Sorry to my friends here in the Pacific northwest, but that is the best.

We played a new game of cards, talked as we always do and as 10 o'clock approached, it seemed time for bed. Suddenly the fire alarm went off, and we couldn't understand why. We tried to turn off our smoke alarm, and as we heard the noise in the hallway, realized it was sounding throughout the building. Down the stairs and out onto the boardwalk people of all ages gathered and waited, some in their nightgowns and others with little attire. It was a fire drill! And on the beach a few were setting off firecrackers in anticipation of the 4th and being enjoyed by all, that is until the police scurried down to stop it. What a great day and evening, and tomorrow we would take our time and journey home.

So today is the 4th of July. . . Independence Day, the day which marks the celebration of the founding of our nation. 232 years ago our founding fathers declared liberation from the clasps and restrictions of England's monarchy, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It is a day which marks the culmination of years of struggle, anguish and labor, and a people faced with insurmountable odds against the most powerful empire, yet bound by humility and a resolute belief in God and who delivered a great nation to us.

They believed in the limit of the power of government, that citizens should be free, and they represented the will of the people. This document says so:


Today we celebrate freedom, but I fear we have become less free. The government has spent with reckless abandonment (the U.S. is now the largest debtor), as has the American consumer. We have allowed ourselves to become controlled by our politicians and greater indebtedness to the government with the ever increasing entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. . .) and taxation (on everything while we live and after we die), and enslaved with debt from purchase of houses and cars and stuff which far exceeds incomes and savings.

I fear the sacrifices made by so many patriots those many years ago to free us from taxation and servitude find us having returned those freedoms with great complacency. Government and debt holders have gained title to nearly all we have and continue to want for more.

When I see our American flag or hear the Star Spangled Banner being sung, I feel the pride of a great nation and people, but the memory of what was fought to gain and the reality of that which has been given back, causes a sadness for me this day.