Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Out in the "Plein Air"

There are painters, such as myself.  Let's call me a recreational painter. One who loves to use spray paint but not necessarily while hanging from the side of city buildings in the middle of the night or chasing after trains in subways.  Still I see the artistry involved  in the splash of the colorful droplets emitting from the can, floating through the air and falling, just so, on an object to give it beauty and meaning.

And, there are painters/artists who paint out of necessity, such as houses, pieces of furniture and fences in order to preserve their beauty and longevity and who also paint to free their artistic and technical spirit on canvas as well as all over my granite kitchen counter top and wooden floor.  Oil paint is a bear to remove, once it has set. This kind of artist can make something out of almost anything None the less, their vision, talent and artful interpretation is a gift to those of us who may not possess the ability to convey ourselves through pencil-thin brushes, glue guns, iron and cement and even your normal, everyday can of plain white paint.

And, then, there are those artists who paint for the joy and pleasure of what they see before them.  All the world may be a stage, according to Shakespeare, as all the world may be a canvas for the artist who spends time seeing the beauty in the tiniest of flower buds, an oddly shaped leaf or the swirling action of the blue and white sky.  Thank you to Gwen, Holly and Diana, members of a Plein Air painting group and offshoot of the Blandy Sketch Club   and who, I'm sure, I have not given anywhere close to full credit when it comes to their talents and artistic vision.

These accomplished  women chose to spend their Monday morning here at Blooming Hill and use our gardens as a backdrop for their artwork, each settling on different views, out in the cool and sunny atmosphere, bursting with lavender to reinterpret on their own canvases.  A much more pleasant thing to do rather than running to the grocery store or doing the family laundry like some of us did, as a part of our typical weekday.  You can see more of their work, along with many of their fellow artist's work on their website, https://outdoorpaintersshenandoah.wordpress.com.  Come again, friends and bring the whole group.  You are most welcome anytime!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

And The Winner Is...

Lavender fields forever!
Summer is here.  The weather, in recent weeks,  has come along both slowly and steadily and with it, so has the lavender, being three to four weeks later than usual--if there is anything, when it comes to our weather nowadays, that can be labeled as usual. However, now the lavender is looking lushly lavender in an array of light and dark hues, partly because rain has spurred everything and anything into a sudden growth spurt. Out of over 60 different varieties growing here at Blooming Hill, a good third of them are currently in profuse bloom mode--woohoo!! 
Dusk settling in while the humidity rises over some of the field.

Traditionally, the earliest of the lavenders would have been blooming for over a month now, beginning sometime around Mother's Day. But, no such gift was part of my mid-May.  In fact, most of the lavenders were not even very green on Mother's Day! I was disappointed but I love my lavenders anyway and waited patiently, promising visitors and friends that we would reap the rewards in June and I was not exaggerating.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Pastor's Pride'
Lavandula angustifolia 'French Fields'
The very first lavender to make her presence known about 2 weeks ago was L. angustifolia 'French Fields' and not far behind her was another dark purple L. angustifolia called 'Pastor's Pride. In other years (again, I refrain from saying "normal") The very first lavender to bloom is a petite and very pretty little one called L. angustifolia 'Thumbelina Leigh' followed closely behind by another angustifolia called 'Croxton's Wild.' Yet this was not to be this year so, 'French Fields' has crowned herself the winner in the category of first to bloom.

Tucker provides a nice backdrop to 'French Fields'.
'French Fields' closely resembles lavender that appears to grow wild in the Mediterranean, hence her name and when someone asks me what is a variety of lavender that is a long bloomer, this one always comes to mind as it seems to grow almost continuously throughout the season, even after the first flush has been harvested.  This variety grows 24-30 inches in my own field and when it opens it's flowers as peak comes on, she takes on a two-toned appearance.  'French Fields' foliage color is a true green which makes her flowers appear even more opalescent making it one of my favorites for the last three years in a row.  So, if I can't be wandering the fields, hills and valleys of Provence, at least I can imagine myself picking a little piece of it right here in my own backyard, in my own "French field."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Falling Off Of The Face Of The Earth--Not!!

Rhapsody in lavender.
Just the other day I went to a birthday party, held at a local winery, for my friend Vickie.  It was then that I realized that I had not done much of anything lately that did not have something to do with lavender here at the farmlet.  Filled with events and gatherings, May was just about non-stop leaving not very much time to even think about anything else beyond Blooming Hill.  It seemed as though I had fallen off the face of the earth, forgetting that there is life after lavender.

The Monacacy Garden Club at Blooming Hill for a tour and talk.
An evening seminar, sponsored by the Loudoun County Master Gardeners.  Lots of people interested in learning about lavender.
My last post was on April 29.  Has it been over a month already?! My, how time flies when you are having fun and it has been fun.  Between weeding and planting, there have been garden fairs to attend, garden groups who have visited, the annual Loudoun County Farm Tour, the shop to be tended and lavender teas, talks and tours right here at the farmlet!  PHEW!!--We certainly have been busy but never, no not once, did we ever slip and fall off of the face of the earth.  In fact, we are thrilled to have welcomed and continue to welcome those of you who are so enthusiastic about lavender and gardening and gardening with lavender.

A lavender bicycle built for flowers, lavender or otherwise.
Setting tables for one or our many tea events
Warmer weather certainly took its time in arriving and, thankfully, the hot, hot weather has not taken up its summer residence, around here quite yet, although I have a feeling it has booked itself into a cozy space somewhere in Western Loudoun County as usual, just a few weeks later in the season.  But, that's okay too, because its summer and all of those silvery lavandula bushes need hot and sunny weather to unwrap their pale headdresses and transform themselves into "splendiforous" purple queens of the summer garden.  Spring let them sleep a little later this year. After all, two polar vortexes and a few mega storms can be rough on even the sturdiest of hairdos, no matter how much you try to protect it--You know what I mean!

L. angustifolia 'Elizabeth'. An early bloomer that promises to be a showstopper among the lavenders this year.
The month of May also introduced to me a new favorite variety called 'Elizabeth'. It's a lavandula angustifolia and it's dark purple buds, elegant stems and shapely branches will give any of the L. angustifolia varieties like 'Hidcote Blue', 'Folgate' and 'French Fields' a run for their money here.

Peter planting new six new beds of lavender.
A sunny hillside of furrows newly planted with L. angustifolia 'Hidcote' and L. x intermedia 'Fat Spike'
In early April, we thought we might have lost about 30% of this year's lavender crop, along with a quite a few boxwoods, crepe myrtles, buddlia and more.  However, Mother Nature had other plans for Blooming Hill's lavender and, although this season is about 3-4 weeks behind, just about every plant greened up, if not a little reluctantly, and they are alive and well and, more importantly, thriving.  While we weren't completely spared--older plants took this past winter much harder than younger plants--the gardens are now lush and robust with color and texture confirming that we really do grow hardy stock here in Northern Virginia.

Members of the Hillsboro Homestead Club came for a Downton Abbey-Style Tea in the early evening.
Upperville Garden Club members admiring floral entries in between a talk on lavender and a lavender-infused cream tea. 
Early morning in the herb garden, quiet and dewy with mist before another busy day begins here at Blooming Hill.
In any case, after the whirlwind month of May and now June, I did not fall off of the face of the earth and Blooming Hill is standing strong, blooming bright and busy tending our lavenders and welcoming visitors.  I just have to make it a point to leave the property here and there and view the outside world for myself--Maybe in August after the harvest is in.  In the meantime, if all of this coming and going here at Blooming Hill is like falling off of the face of the earth, then I'll take the plunge every time.
Somewhere in the midst of everything, P. Lorenz (a.k.a. Peter) found time to design and deliver a lovely flower arrangement for a dear friend's daughter's wedding.  Look at that. No lavender in sight!