Monday, July 25, 2011

The "Zinnia" Days of Summer

Here we are, it seems, just barely making it through these "Dogs Days of Summer," the period of time between the beginning of July and the end of August, when the most sultry of days occur in the northern hemisphere, and what appears to be most especially Northern Virginia these last few days  Who can argue against the notion that these hottest and most humid of summer days are marked by lethargy, inactivity and, dare I say it,  indolence?  Well, maybe those who love an over-abundance of crab grass now thriving in our stressed-out lawns and garden beds might argue against lethargy but, indolence?...Never!

Since lavender, here at Blooming Hill, has left the building, in a manner of speaking, and I am finally past the harvest, life is settling down to a slower rhythm from an almost frenetic pace of cutting and bundling. And, although the night sky dog star, Sirius, rises and sets along with the blazing sun--thus, the ancient legend of "Dog Days" somehow came about--I can now turn my attention to other floral works of art created by nature and one of the most resilient of these floral pieces of artistry in the high summer garden is the zinnia...favorites of mine.  

Why?...Because these big and small and very prolific and colorful bloomers seem to defy the weather with almost disarming innocence.  Yes, there are other blooming beauties out there like coneflower, vinca, Russian Sage and Black-eyed Susan's.  However, their names just don't seem to roll off of the tongue as easily.  And while petunias and geraniums seem to possess a musical lilt, they--even the so-called super ones--are looking a bit long in the tooth as of late. It's the zesty zinnias that own this weather, making them the jewels of the garden this time of year.

In the language of flowers, the zinnia's general meaning refers to "thoughts of absent friends" probably because of their affable, welcoming nature and their sturdiness against the harsh heat that often tries to shoo them away, as heat tends to do to so many other garden beauties like the the carefree bee balm or those opulent May peonies.  Even the lovely rose presently seems to be fading on the bush while morning glories are still catching their last few winks of beauty sleep before they rise to greet the summer.

Zinnias love the garden lifestyle assigned to them by nature...bugs, deer and lack of water do not deter them and they love to crowd together enforcing the notion of the more the merrier!  If the gardener is careful when watering, zinnias will resist mildewy and wilting leaves.  I find zinnias to be, at this time of year, the simple abundance of the summer flower garden  even while they share the limelight with their neighbors the sunflowers, cosmos, Queen Ann's Lace and the like.
So, lets all hail the wonderful, friendly and resilient zinnia for their grace under heated pressure and their sturdy ability to remain always lovely.  Dog Days...indeed!  Let's embrace this heat and call it  Zinnia Days and we might all feel just a little bit better about this weather. I don't think the dogs will you?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Un Fuseau de Lavande

Repeat after me...un fuseau de lavande...Very good. Now say it one more time...un fuseau de lavande. If you don't speak french, I am sure you are saying to yourself, "Just exactly what does she have me saying?" Well it's obvious, of course!  You are saying lavender wand! It is a  hand-crafted apparatus designed expressly for it's aromatic benefits, with a little bit of delicate beauty thrown in for good measure. Some lavender wands are skinny and some are fat.  The lavender wands I am making seem to be somewhere in the middle.  My friend, Kim, makes very tiny, sweet ones that she fashions into pins for your lapel.  Yet, all are lovely and offer the soft scent of "citrusy" sweetness that makes lavender so special

As pretty as they are, laid next to your pillow to ensure a restful night and sweet dreams or stashed in your sweater drawer for springtime freshness, they can be a bit tedious and tricky to make. So, if you choose to make your own lavender wand, bring your patience and your dexterity and settle yourself in somewhere comfortable with a good pair of reading glasses on hand and spend a half hour, or so, weaving satin ribbon in and out of lavender stems.  It also helps, at least it helps me, to imagine myself sitting perhaps in a cozy little chateau situated in the Provencal countryside, crafting un fuseau de lavande...aaahhhhhh.  Okay, enough of thatBack to reality Although, come to think of it, sitting in my house here at Blooming Hill isn't so bad either.

All it takes is colorful ribbon, along with a bit of determination to see it through to the end and you find that you transformed loose lavender stems, already simple things of capricious beauty--freshly cut, slender and wispy, trimmed in blossoms of violet intrigue--into a magical wand that releases an understated fragrance like no other.  And, the end is most certainly worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Road Trip

Wikipedia defines a "Road Trip" as "any journey taken on roads, regardless of how many stops may be taken on such a trip. Typically, road trips are long distances taken by automobile..."  Yep, that sounds about wasn't a dream about spending a summer weekend trapped in a pickup truck where the air conditioning was on the really happened!  I wasn't in, I mean...Blooming Hill anymore!  However, it could have been worse, really, outside of the Friday night rain and rush hour marathons we endured with the other thousands of weekend road trippers trundling down the interstate and across bridges on our way north, dreaming of a sunnier Saturday and Sunday ahead. The road trip definitely improved after that.

We covered a lot of territory in explorer fashion, through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania onto New Jersey and finally into Connecticut and then back again, in a matter of three days. Honestly, without roadside rest stops, mocha frappes and antique shops along the way, I don't know how our colonial fore-bearers ever survived traveling!

Since stopping is so much a part of the American road trip experience and we have experienced this experience a me, I settled back and enjoyed the ride. One of the first stops was an essential one since it involved picking up dancing pigs, leaping frogs, flying birds along with over-sized ladies' colonial slippers and tiny woodland creatures. Sounds kind of  like a Walt Disney Cartoon, I know.  However, it was a matter of business as I needed to stop by one of my suppliers of garden statuary for customer special orders and such. The men assigned to pack our truck with this precious cargo were only too happy to take a moment and smile for the camera before getting back to work and sending us on our merry way and our next leg of the trip.

Peter's grandmother's house on the Niantic River.
Shops in Old Lyme, CT.
By late Friday night, we reached our final destination in Connecticut where we spent a wonderful day with Peter's mother and visiting Peter's childhood summertime family home and haunts in the Connecticut countryside and along the Niantic River. We also visited the towns of Old Lyme--on of my most favorites places on earth--as well as Essex, both quintessential New England towns with their characteristic architectural details displaying tall white church steeples and gabled roofs on austere yet welcoming and simple facades of homes.

An artist's rendition of giant lavender flowers.
Old Lyme, like me, must have lavender always on it's mind as we caught a glimpse of giant, shimmering lavender wands bending in the summer sun at the entrance of the Old Lyme Art Guild Building. As pretty as this site was, I don't think the bees were fooled for even a minute but it certainly caught my eye and turned my thoughts toward Blooming Hill and my fields of lavender.  As we got back into the car, I heard Peter murmuring to himself, "Yeah...that gives me an idea.."   Hmmmm, I wonder what that means?

Peter and his mother, Lynn, a life-long gardener.
We traveled along the Long Island Sound for the day and visited a small community garden where my mother- in-law now has two small garden plots for herbs and cutting flowers where she now lives.  This is just a tiny slice of what encompasses her gardening knowledge and accomplishments, having been a dedicated gardener all of her life.  Herbs were always, and still are, her specialty.

Statuary in front of a store in Essex, CT called "Pocket Full of Posies."
One of the highlights of Saturday was finding a lovely little shop of garden decor and statuary in Essex where I could have stayed the rest of the weekend but home was calling and us back into the pickup truck and off we went with a growing load of cargo to take back to Blooming Hill.

Road trips are great as long as home is at the end of the journey where we arrived safely with lots of good memories, among other things, stored away or on display for another day.  Now let's see...where did I leave my hand clippers?  The weekend break is over and time to hang up the car keys. The lavender bushes here at Blooming Hill are calling me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Garden Party

You know the old adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  Well, the same holds true for, "When there's a party in the garden...throw a garden party!It's a no-brainer, really.  As I was harvesting lavender and weeding beds, I asked myself, "Why should the zinnias, phlox and geraniums have all of the fun in this hot and humid weather being served up for the 4th of July?"  So, that's just what I did...I threw a garden party.  In fact, I threw a couple of them.  And, of course, just whom did I find dipping into the the lavender lemonade and aperitifs before the guests arrived?  Well, let's just say it wasn't Tucker, the dog--this time.  Thank goodness there was still enough left for the thirty or so people who filtered in and out of the Blooming Hill Gardens throughout the July Fourth afternoon.

The Fourth of July is perfect for showing off floral fireworks in the afternoon garden that mirrored the shimmery plumes in the night sky and who can resist the toothy grin on a wiley-looking snap dragon or the sweet face of a shy lace-cap hydrangea bursting through the foliage...I ask you!  The dahlias enjoyed the butterfly sparklers while the bees just come for the liqueur.  You know those kind kind of guests--a little inebriated and always the life of the party.  You just can't do without the kind of entertainment that the bees and butterflies provide.

I didn't even mind that those interloping clovers who always come uninvited, tromping through the grass.  They seem to show up with every one of their friends and relatives while those devil deer stood in the shadows and spied on us, wondering where the leftovers will be stored.

After the Fourth came Kevin's 20th birthday and we were off and running again with a colorfully-candled chocolate cake and a bright and sunny day.  Just look at Kevin and his girlfriend, Lara...both at 20 years-old and full of lots of hopes and dreams...Their futures look so bright I thought I might need a pair of Foster Grants just standing next to them.  I'm pretty sure I got a little suntan, to say the very least.

Then finally, it was Garden Club garden party time and the roadsides leading to Blooming Hill were laced with Rose of Sharon, wild chicory and, for a little culinary appetizer, wild raspberries that guests were practically in a dead heat with the birds, in order to beat them to a mouthful of juicy, ruby-colored hors d' hoeuvres.  What a way to get the party started.

With each celebration this past week, everyone needed a little lavender aperitif to wash down the sweetness of the surrounding floral infused atmosphere.  How perfectly wonderful this summer party week has been and what a lovely idea the flowers had by urging me to throw a garden party.  I think I'll do it again, very, very soon.  The bee balm, cone flower and helianthus (false sunflower) all seem up for another go-around as does the Russian Sage...let's just hope they help clean up!

If you missed the party, don't worry.  Blooming Hill's Garden Shop is open on Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment for all of your "gifty-garden" needs so, stop by and visit us and a good time will be had by all even without a garden party in progress!  Since it's summer, we may be out partying in the garden or just plain partying so, you may want to call ahead and just make sure we are here...703-431-0779.  See you soon.