Friday, October 30, 2009

Chanticleer Revisited

After being wowed by Chanticleer last fall, I leapt at the chance to visit again, this time at the end of June. It was even more beautiful at that time of year.

The trip produced two Photos of the Day:

I liked them both so much that I printed them and hung them on my wall.

Visiting gardens is a great way to get ideas for my own gardens.

I would never have thought of planting red poppies in a largely pink and purple bed, would you?

I always think of cutting gardens as utilitarian,

but if designed right, they can be beautiful.

Even a veggie garden can be an attractive place to sit.

You can see all of the photos of my trip to Chanticleer on Flickr.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Willowwood Arboretum

I love revisiting gardens. There is always something more to see. This is especially true when visiting the same gardens during different seasons. I had an opportunity last April to go to Willowood Arboretum, which I had first visited a few years ago during the month of September.

First, the Photo of the Day. There were two of them this time.

Look! It’s not centered. I’m making progress on that front.

I love this photo because it is up to the viewer to decide what is the subject. Is the picture about the flowers? Is it about the gate? Is it about the ivy-covered stones?

Visiting Willowwood during the month of April when the gardens were just starting to come alive, gave me a chance to examine the bones of the garden as well as the functional and decorative objects in the landscape.

I don’t recall seeing this water pump last time probably because it was overwhelmed by the shrub and other plants and flowers that captured my attention instead. The sunny daffodils made this little vignette really stand out.

This house grabbed my camera and wouldn’t let go.

I don’t recall this feature from my last visit. It looks like a perfect spot for containers. And check out the great stonework.

Also a contender for the Photo of the Day.

When I looked at the photos I took on my first trip to Willowwood, with the exception of the gate, there is not a single picture of any of these things. I didn’t “see” them through the mature vegetation and colorful flowers.

You can see all of the photos of my trip to Willowwood on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

...or too many books

I’ve created a new blog. I know what you’re thinking: have I lost my mind? How many blogs do I have now? Four? Five? Even I’m not sure any more. This one, however, is low maintenance. I will be posting book reviews that I have been writing for LibraryThing as an Early Reviewer.

I am an eclectic reader. Always looking to discover new areas of knowledge as well as adding to my acquaintance with my favorite topics. Being an Early Reviewer offers me the opportunity to read books that aren’t available in my local library or mentioned in the New York Times Book Review. I read books that I might normally pass up (Casanova, surprisingly interesting). Another perk is the review copies. Translation: free books.

After carefully reading each book, I spend a few hours writing a thoughtful review and then post it on LibraryThing and Posting reviews on my own blog allows me to credit the publishers who have so generously provided review copies and link to their sites. I’ve “opened” a store on and “stocked it” with the books that I have reviewed. Anyone who is intrigued by a review can easily purchase the book. And I can make a little money, never a bad thing.

The most difficult part of the new blog was the title. “OldRoses’ Bookshelf” or “From the Library of OldRoses” were too boring. I wanted something catchy, something fun, something creative. I was drawing a blank until last week. Looking at the piles of books cluttering up my house, I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and buy more bookshelves because you can never be too rich or too thin or have too many books.

And a blog was born: …or too many books.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: A Rose by Any Name

It’s no secret that I love roses, especially heirloom roses. I love their gorgeous flowers. I love their heavenly scents. I love their toughness. And I love their names. Residing in my garden are Baronne Prevost, Cecile Brunner, General Jacqueminot, Mme. Pierre Oger, Mme. Plantier, Therese Bugnet and Zephirine Drouhin. Who were these people and why were roses named after them?

Douglas Brenner and Stephen Scanniello set out to solve those mysteries. They initially chose about four dozen roses with interesting histories. But the problem with roses and their stories is that when you start out discussing one tale, it leads to another story about another rose which leads to yet another story about another rose, etc. By the time the authors finished, the four dozen roses had become over 1200.

It’s those stories that make this book so fascinating. Rather than a dry list of names each followed by a short explanation of the person/place/thing for which the rose was named, we are treated to tales of danger, intrigue, humor and pathos, all with historical tidbits thrown in to put it into context.

We visit gardens that no longer exist and gardens that are still going strong. We learn about the game “Rose Alphabet” wherein players must come up with rose names for each letter of the alphabet. Also included are several recipes using rose petals or hips along with the story of the discovery of rose oil in India.

Most of all, it’s the people and their stories. Gods and goddesses, kings and queens, saints and sinners. Presidents, war heroes, painters, fashion designers, actors and actresses. Humbler folk such as family members of rose breeders.

The authors debunk a few legends. My personal favorite is the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.” Not true, unfortunately.

A glossary of rose and gardening terms is included as well as a bibliography, both very helpful. The lack of an index was the one glaring omission in this otherwise wonderful book. There is no way to look up a specific rose.

As for the “people” growing in my gardens? Five of them are covered, but you will have to read the book yourself to find out which ones and the stories behind them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sole Survivor

I had this great idea last year as the much-anticipated Pinetree Gardens catalog arrived. Instead of just ordering their luscious red zinnias to be planted in the hummingbird part of my “Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden”, I would also order zinnias in orange, yellow and white.

I would create waves of color. The red zinnias, as usual, would surround the hummingbird feeder. Next to them on either side would be the orange zinnias, followed by the yellow zinnias and ending with the white ones. Very Gertrude Jekyll.

I should know by now that any time I have one of my “great ideas”, it should be duly noted but never, ever put into practice.

Two rabbits moved into my backyard this year. Initially I wasn’t alarmed, having already dealt with a cotton-tail attack years ago. A truce of sorts was eventually reached. They stopped digging up and eating my tulip bulbs and I stopped planting tulip bulbs.

Tulips are a waste anyways. They look great the first spring and then are never seen again. I concentrate on bulbs that not only return every year, but also multiply, spreading color everywhere. Snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths. Can’t beat ‘em.

So when a couple of Peter Rabbit’s relatives showed up this spring, I allowed myself to think “how cute!”. For about 30 seconds. Which is how long it took me to discover that all of the tiny annual seedlings interspersed among the perennials were really a Bunny Buffet.

I start all of my annuals from seed. I fill in the gaps between the perennials with them, creating little spots of color. This year, I had only gaps. The seedlings never made it past their first set of true leaves.

Those waves of color in the Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden? Never happened. I planted the zinnia seeds, was happy to see most of them germinate and thrilled when the seedlings made it to their first set of true leaves. Then I never saw them again.

Literally overnight, every single plant but one disappeared, victims of the voracious rabbits. Perhaps mocking me, they allowed one zinnia to grow. Appropriately it is white, the color of mourning in most Asian cultures.

Blooming in My Garden

Aconitum napellus

I don't know the variety of this monkshood. It was part of a collection of different varieties that I ordered and planted years ago. This is the only one that survived. And this is the first time that it has ever bloomed.