Sunday, July 28, 2013

Great Weekend Visit

This post is an interruption in the series I have planned on early summer flowers. (Is it really almost August? Summer has gone so fast this year!) This post is to share the past weekend activities with David's brother Will, who was visiting from Washington, D.C.

As you can see from the photo above, there is a strong family resemblance. (Will on the left, for those readers who don't know David)

As with all visits with friends or family, food was involved! Here we are, David, Bob, and me, enjoying the delicious meal prepared with such flair (juggling, fire tricks, an onion volcano!) by the hibachi chef at the grill in the middle of the table.

Will and Bob had both spent time in Japan and had seen hibachi performances before (but not the onion volcano), but it was a new thrill for David and me.
Another meal together, this time brunch at the pancake house with Frank. Will and Frank had both visited Prague, so that was a fun conversation.
David looks a little unsure here, but in fact he always order the farmer's scramble and bran pancakes ...
Maybe this photo makes Frank's face a little longer than normal?
David's son Jonathan is helping Will out, putting David's wheelchair in the back of our van prior to another food outing to a Thai restaurant. Last summer Jonathan arranged for us to have this terrific cable installed. It uses the power of the van's battery to raise and lower the red cable with clip on the end to attach to the folded wheelchair. It's great. When I tried to do it myself, I couldn't lift the chair up to get it in the van, but, thanks to this device, there's a remote and at a press of the button ... magic ... it goes up and in the vehicle. It was a treat, nonetheless, to have these two taking over so I could just relax.

Now that we have this van cable, the beautiful wooden ramp Jonathan and friends built last summer, and the walk-in shower in the fully remodeled downstairs bathroom, we've got lots of help!
A little clowning around makes the job more fun!
At the Thai restaurant, here's Bob and Marta, Jonathan's lovely wife.
Age fourteen this spring, Reka, junior astronomer and flute player, looks so much like her mom! They grow up fast ...
Both girls and their mom. Luca, the pretty blonde in the middle, is eleven now and starting junior high in the fall. She's quite the online artist and has her own website.
It was a good meal and such a delight for the eight of us to all be together. Jonathan was enjoying himself and telling Will about his new research project.
Here's a nice shot of David and Bob.
And Jonathan and me.
Will has been a vegetarian for a number of year, and recently became a vegan,like my sister Christine, but he found a good tofu and veggie dish to enjoy.
No, it's not surgery. It's Jonathan's office in the research park ... with a "clean room" for the sensitive equipment.
They all had to wear hairnets and masks while Jonathan explained the very technical details of the interesting work he is doing now.
Jonathan's head gear gives him a bit of the look of a ninja warrior according to his daughters.

David chose to remain in the regular part of the office and watched the show from there.

There were lots of questions and answers and the excitement of high-tech science all around us!
Of course, all that food and talk wore David out, so he's catching forty winks here.
It was a really fun weekend. We actually did more things together than eat, for example, we talked a lot and Will met with his nephew and a former schoolmate. The two brothers had a joint singalong with David's singing teacher ... the first time they had sung together for more than a decade! And Will enjoyed petting our five cats a lot. I guess that the pictures all got taken over food.

Will is back home safely in DC now, resting up before his big trip this fall for the 50th reunion of his high school class at the boarding school, Woodstock, in northern India where he and David and their other siblings all went to school. He plans to go also to Bhutan, south India, Burma, and Sri Lanka. What a trip! Hope we get to have another visit from him and see some pictures from Asia.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spring Perennials for 2013

 This little yellow species tulip was a sweet springtime treat. The species tulips are all quite tiny little things, originally from high rocky places in Iran, Turkey, and the like. Most people are more familiar with the highly bred tall and colorful Darwin hybrids. I like them too, but the small species tulips are just right for my raised beds. Funny thing is, we had put some in fall before last and didn't see much of anything last spring (which was a heatwave already!) and I assumed the squirrels had feasted. There were plenty during this cool wet spring, so the smart bulbs just waited around for a better year, I guess!

 Another pint-sized lovely is this cousin of the tall bearded German irises: the dwarf pumila iris. We have a number of clumps of these in shades from blue to purple in the raised beds on the east. They have a rhizome, just like the larger iris, and are planted fairly close to the surface. They like well-drained soil, so the raised beds are a good spot for them.

 I love dianthus of all kinds, both annual and perennial. They like cool weather and tend to bloom early and then rebloom later on if I deadhead. They are related to carnations and many have a sweet scent as well as lovely markings.

 A nice big clump of brilliant yellow is wonderful in the spring sunlight, and this alyssum saxatile "basket of gold" fills the bill every year. It is getting bigger each time too.

 We have phlox of several kinds in the garden. In the shady areas there are the taller pale blue woodland phlox (divaricata) and, later in the summer, the best-known tall colorful flowers of phlox paniculata. But early on, it's the short creeping phlox (subulata) that steal the show, especially this cute little candy striper.

 I can't tell you how many rose bushes, both tea roses and English roses, that I've planted in this garden and others over the years. Most of them are gone, of course, or what remains and blooms is the small dark red blossoms of the original grafted rose used "underneath" the fancy hybrid. Why do they die? Because it's Illinois and so unlike England and Oregon, I guess. But shrub roses are another matter altogether and now, suddenly, the Double Knockout Rose is everywhere in town and blooming brilliantly and living through the winter and looking great. You even see them in front of gas stations, so they must be almost indestructible!

 If wouldn't be spring without pansies in my opinion. Long ago I had a perfect spot in an earlier garden where pansies actually lived over the winter. But mostly they have to be treated as cool weather annuals, planted in the earliest spring and usually petering out when the July heat hits. Last year, they only lasted a very short time, but this year they were lovely for almost two months.

 Many of the flowering trees and shrubs in our garden and elsewhere in this town were unusually full of flowers with all the rain and cool nights this spring. I have never seen the magnolias, crab apples, rhododendrons and azaleas, double kerria, double almond, and dogwoods as full as they were this year. Here's a lovely magenta azalea from our north yard, a shady area come summer.

 Who loves rain and cool weather as much as ferns? Nobody. The ostrich ferns were especially nice this spring, unfurling their tall noble fronds. They have lasted a long time too.

 The sensitive ferns were hit hard last two years by drought and heat. They love water and grow near streams in the wild. Now they are making a comeback here in dappled shade in the north underneath the bird bath.

 A small white azalea that didn't bloom last year was a goner, or so I thought until it showed up this spring, looking sweet and lovely.

 The woods geranium is a common sight in the forest around here, but does well in a shady spot in the garden too. The bright annual "geraniums" that we have in containers are actually pelargoniums and hail from South Africa. The perennial geraniums are cranesbills, and there are quite a few nice ones for the garden in shades of pink and blue.

 In my opinon, it wouldn't be spring without the sweet nodding bells of the lily of the valley. Our clump is huge now, having spread over the years in a shady spot in the north.

Here's a little closer shot of the white bells. They are small but so fragrant!

More photos and commentary to come next time. Thanks for coming back to Susan's blogs!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

As Promised ... Garden 2013

Just a quick word of explanation first: last summer 2012 was one of the worst gardening summers we've ever had in Illinois. After a few spring photos, I gave up on taking photos and then was overcome with a series of health issues for myself and my husband and abandoned this blog. Sorry. Now we're back on track. David has a wheelchair and a ramp and a downstairs bathroom and I've got a cable lift in the van for getting the wheelchair in easily. The weather has been wonderful this year as well. So we're good to go!

First of all, tree peonies were stupendous this year. Usually they bloom in early April and get drowned in rain that breaks the branches or fried by sudden heat waves (2011 and 2012). They were two weeks later this year and enjoyed sun, perfect rains, and cool nights.
 Most of you are familiar with "regular" peonies, sometimes called herbaceous peonies, that bloom in May, smell lovely, and are often seen lining driveways. We have those too and love them. But these are a bit different. They have woody stems like a tree and you don't cut down the foliage each year. They take a while to establish but, like their relatives, are very long-lived. Many have been bred in Asia, especially China and Japan.

 Some of them are scented and some not. The blooms are very silky and satiny in texture and quite large. The range of colors in pretty good, lacking mainly blues. If the weather is right, which it certainly was this April here, the blooms last a long time too.

 This white one is especially nicely scented. There were probably 50 blooms on this bush.

 As you can see, the centers are really showy too, with bright yellow to contrast with the petal color.

 Many of my tree peonies were planted in an earlier garden almost 30 years ago now and transplanted here 17 years ago. I have added a few new ones in the past five or six years, however, and these haven't reached their full size yet. But the newer ones include several bicolors, like this pink and white one.

 There are quite a few variations of what you might call a "rose" colored tree peony. The range of pink, rose, red, to purple is quite broad.

 Notice that the foliage is a little different from the herbaceous peonies too, with those pointed leaves. When the flowers finish and the seed buds form (they really should be cut off to prevent drawing energy away from the shrub), the leaves stay attractive all summer and fall.

 Here's a nice bright red one that I added just a couple of years back.

 Tree peonies take more shade than herbaceous ones. You can see a fern behind this white one in a slightly raised bed at the south end of an east side planting with filtered light.

Here's an especially pretty newer one with lots of delicate markings on the two-tone petals.

Next blog post (soon, I hope) will include iris and phlox and the early plantings of container annuals. Unfortunately, I had some camera battery issues and so I missed getting photos of the wonderful show of herbaceous peonies, the lilacs, and the siberian irises. But the early summer hydrangeas, many perennials, and annuals spilling over the edges of their containers are yet to come ... so stayed tuned!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A New Beginning

Believe it or not, I am actually going to start blogging again after a year's absence. Took a bunch of garden photos I plan to upload and comment on sometime soon. So ... I am still alive and mostly well, still making beaded jewelry and gardening and reading fiction. More soon!