Birthday Ginger

Here's some lovely blue ginger (Zingiber) in honor of G's birthday today! Yay! She's 2!
(I discovered this particular ginger while visiting Grove Farm estates last summer in Kaua'i, but that is another post.......)


Quirky Quercus

WARNING: the following post is probably of no interest to anyone but myself. Now is a good time to read another blog, like 327 market. Or to turn off the computer and go outside.)

We've got a hillside that has a lovely native scrub oak, and it is in danger. I let my landlords put a bunch of annuals under it last summer, and subsequently water them deeply during our long, hot summer. This is bad. Our climate is such that we get all our rain from October to May, and then nothing. No summer showers at all. This oak is native and will not tolerate water in the summer. It is highly susceptible to oak root fungus, and so needs to be totally and utterly DRY in the summer months. So the gardening conundrum is this: what plants will do well under an oak?A.K.A. what likes dry shade? This is a common question for California gardeners. The pool of candidates is small, particularly for our zone (7). Things like arctostaphylos uva-ursi (what a name!) and some of the ceanothus genus might do the trick. Also, we've gotten rather a late start on this job. Ideally, the plants should have gone in the ground last autumn, in order to benefit from the winter rains. It will be tricky, but the plan is to put everything in the ground after the last frost but before the rains have finished, maybe in March or April? It is still a little confusing. But the oak is worth it. I am trying to keep in mind the way the moss looks on its trunk in the winter, with that particular verdant glow that I have only elsewhere seen in a Devonshire field, and how the sun is diffused through its crazed and gnarled branches. It hosts quite a number of grey squirrels as well as the occasional wood dove, and any number of jays, scrub and stellar. It is lovely.


Hey You! Look Up Here! Look Up Here!

I am finding life lessons in the oddest spots these days. Today, I stood on a wooden bridge with two little girls and played Pooh sticks with redwood cones and leaves. This is a foot bridge over the main road in our little sylvan burgh. We waited for cars and then commenced mad waving, trying to get someone's attention. I realize that a lot of my life is like this: I do small things by myself, absorbed in my games and then someone comes along. I drop my toys and wave like a mad woman-"Hi! Hi! HI! Notice me, notice me!" I wait, breath held, and then, "Yes! Recognition!" and I wriggle with delight like my two companions today. I love Donald Miller's book 'Searching for God Knows What': he reminds me that I am normal. I always thought that the propensity in me that cries out for approval from others was because of my deep insecurities, that I am totally screwed up, and that if anyone knew this about me, they would edge for the door, not quite meeting my eyes. Miller says instead that this need for other's approval is inherent; we are made to have someone else tell us what we are worth; in truth we are made for God to tell us our value. And when I come to God He tells me that I am important, that I matter, and that I am loved. When I try to get this kind of thing from other people, it is little wonder that I end up burned. People are just as messed up as I am, they haven't read the rule book, and don't really know what criteria to base their judgements on. This is the real reason we are told not to judge each other: we don't know how to do it correctly. Yes, as Pastor Dan reminds us, we are told to judge fellow Christians' actions, but only by the plumbline of the Bible. Even then, it is really tricky work.



Today in the garden: definitely time for a good prune! I got out there at my in-law's house and gave their rose bushes a good whacking. Also to 'get it' included the hydrangea and an old red apple. I absolutely love winter pruning. Alone in the weak winter sunshine, singing 'Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming' and hacking away at an old rose standard makes for a pretty great afternoon.
Soundtrack for this post: 'Casimir Pulaski Day', by Sufjan Stevens.



I ran into a friend today who was really sad and needed to talk. As she poured out her heart to me, I really wanted to help. I wanted to tell her exactly what to do and say, and how to go about dealing with the situation. Another governing agent inside me whispered about not having to offer all the answers, and to be a support without having to 'fix' the situation. That sounded pretty healthy, at least like it was from the better parts of me, if not from the Holy Spirit Himself. I didn't know where to go from there, however. I hugged her, commiserated, but didn't try to solve the problem for her, which felt very stilted. She left pretty suddenly, and I hope it wasn't because of me. Dang it! I knew I should have finished that Boundaries book!



I am sickly. B just finished it and it is my turn now.
Yech! Pray for me. Everything tastes like sand.


Auld Lang Sine, My Dear

Seamill Centre, photo by Eleanor McSeveny

I was adding some links to this blog and found myself with a lump in my throat. I'm struck again with the complexities of this whole distance thing and the conundrum I find myself in everytime I travel. I fall in love easily with places and new friends and then we leave.....
We lived abroad for a year, a whole life in a whole other place, and I can't go back there at the flip of a kilt. I gardened in that land, and laughed and talked and prayed and got dirty and was bit by midges. I know where to find the early snowdrops and where the heather grows wild in the garden beds, and the gorse smells like coconut. Soon it will be time to look for blooms on the daphne mezereum, and to pick the crocus that have naturalized in the lawns. Right now the leaves are off the sycamore trees and through them you can see the looming outline of the Isle of Arran. The stark white branches carry a lumpy, black assortment of detritus and debris from the past years: giant crow's nests and their raucus inhabitants, my constant companions and critics as I prune and weed in the weak winter sun. As the sun sets (4pm in the winter) we gather to watch the brightest visual stimulus of the grey day: the sun is a halo over Arran, glorifying and embracing Goatfell's craigy peak.
I know that weeds have again covered over my Victorian brick path, and most likely no one is noticing when the green fronds will poke up through last year's bracken. Somehow that's okay, because we chose to come home, with our own joyful (and graceful) souvenir, and I let the gardens go, but somewhere in me there is a groundskeeper who stills wishes she was there to tend, to pick, to unearth. For anyone living at Seamill now-GO OUTSIDE! There is fabulous beauty down near the burn, and so much to discover. Okay, the weather is bitter now, but soon, soon, put on the wellies and venture forth. And while you're out there, pick a snowdrop for the old groundskeeper, and pray for Scotland. And I suppose the whole answer to this conundrum is heaven, and the reconciliation of all things to the One who made them.


The White Witch's power is weakening.

1'13'07 Seen blooming on la madrona: chaenomeles japonica, the flowering quince, my favorite (and earliest) harbinger of spring. There is nothing like it's deep pink cherry blossom flowers blooming on bare wood to quicken the winter-drugged mind. And so Japanese. An appropriate moniker. Confession: I found a specimen nearby that had layered on it's own ( my favorite means of vegetative propagation) and I dug it up when no one was looking. However, a more truculent quince I have yet to see. Perhaps it still resents it's ill-gotten beginnings.......
(aka excuse me while I gambol)
I am so hooked on the symbols and stories of spring. Even now, scarcely a week gone from Epiphany and I am looking ahead, scanning the heavens for a sign.
I beheld His natal star and with it came the scent of violets.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates." -Jesus (Matthew 24:32-33)
Aslan is on the move.


begin the begin: i let you down easily

1.13.07 i think it is important to say, at the beginning of things that i offer no easy answers. no sham prophecies, quick fixes or rosetta stones. a little botanical nomenclature, some verse, maybe a picture or two is all i will promise. i will try to cover the basics, but i will-let the reader be warned-be deviating from the strict rigors of the binomial system. life does not seem to follow such an easily quantifiable course. either this or this, sometimes it's not that easy. sometimes even in taxonomy you have to trust your gut. 'say it with confidence' my hort teacher always said, 'is the only rule in botanical pronunciation.' rocks, trees, skies, seas.
and a little latin. helleborus niger. hibiscus rosa-sinensis. aahhh.....
the spanish have a word the translation of which i do not find in my own native tongue: echar. it means to 'throw out' and it is used so hauntingly by the late jose marti in his 'versos sincillos'
'yo soy un hombre sincero
de donde crece la palma
y antes de morirme
quiero echar los versos del alma'
'i am a sincere man
from where the palm tree grows
and before i die i want to throw out
the verses of my soul.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.