Six on Saturday – Summer into Fall

Our six week drought ended with a week of rain. We were lucky because we didn’t get flooding like some other areas nearby. The parched soil drank in the water, and all the plants perked up. The grass could be seen getting greener by the hour.

1. The things blooming now in my garden remind me that fall is just around the corner. Colorful crepe myrtles adorn my yard and neighborhood. Mine are white, a deep pink and a smaller purple. I bought the white and purple, but the pink were plants that someone had put out for the trash. So I snagged them. I really love the exfoliating bark. The old bark reminds of the black snake skins I used to find in our barn back in Harford County on the Western shore.

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2. A friend gave me a small cutting of a Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) that came from her father’s garden. I didn’t realize Rose of Sharon was in the Hibiscus family. This plant is tucked back in a shaded corner of the garden and would like more sun, but it’s where there was an available spot. The flowers are lovely. In my Google search several places noted that these could be used as container plants. I might try that and get this beauty into the sun.

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3. I am seeing some Japanese beetles, so I put a little dishwashing detergent in some water and flicked them into it to drown. The only reason I can think that this SunPatiens is looking so sick is that one day — when it was so hot — I poured the detergent water on that end of the window box. Won’t do that again! All the other plants look fine. What I really need to do is go to the garden center where I bought the bedding plants and see if I can replace the sick one.

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4. The hyacinth bean vines are just beginning to flower. The seeds were saved from plants a friend gave me. She passed away two years ago, but is remembered in my garden. The hose was put away later, but I forgot to go out for another photo. It seems there are always spots in my garden that make everyone know a real person, with a real life, lives here. I was inside making tomato sauce from tomatoes grown in my bed at the Community Garden.

I just realized looking at this photo that I have a replacement for the sick SunPatien mentioned in #3. It’s in a pot at the lower left of this picture. I now remember I had a couple left over from the flat I bought.

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5. The Limelight hydrangea has started to flower. And the Arabella clematis, which has been blooming since spring, is now weaving its way through to the other side of the lattice.

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6.  Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a milkweed native and mine are now setting seed pods. I haven’t seen any Monarch caterpillars, however. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed as their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants, and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. Google tells me that Monarch butterfly populations have dropped more than 90% in the last twenty years because of a loss of host plants, so growing milkweed plants is very important for future of monarchs. I’m trying to do my bit. These plants don’t mind some drought once established, so I will plant some of the seeds when they are ready. I wouldn’t mind having a whole bed of these. They would be a nice complement in front of the yellow rudbeckia.

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That’s my six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Plein Air Quick Write*

Would you be able to write if you were outside (maybe under an umbrella to protect you from the scorching sun or a deluge) and had to complete a writing assignment in two hours? And your writing project would be judged and then put up for sale. This is what artists at Easton’s annual Plein Air Festival Quick Draw do. And to make it more difficult it’s a juried show and artists have to submit work in order to even get into the competition. This year the contestants were challenged by downpours.

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So it made me wonder…what would a Plein Air Quick Write Festival look like?

The very thought of trying to write something with other people watching makes me want to throw up. I’m an introvert and I covet alone time. Being closeted with my computer qualifies, and I could never share office space with my husband even though he’s a really nice guy. I know how to do social stuff, but it drains me and I have to have alone time to recharge my batteries. When Laura Ambler and I collaborate on a writing project these lines are blurred, but I have to say there is a huge amount of trust that she is not going to be judgemental when I blurt out something that just wouldn’t work. I grant her the occasional eye roll, but that’s it.

Two hours doesn’t give much time for editing or what I like to call marinating. Sometimes something I’ve written stays in a drawer for a long time before I take it out and look at it again. I read it and think, not too bad, or I read it and wonder why I wasted the paper it was printed on. Usually marinating doesn’t take that long, but, for me, it’s a really important part of the process. It gives my brain time to work without me trying to force it onto a particular path.

Writing using prompts might seem similar to a quick write. There are people sitting near you (which I find really distracting), but you only have to share if you want to. However, your words are not all out in the open for the world to see like a painting would be. I don’t like to think that I am a competitive person, but at the few writing prompt workshops I’ve attended the notion that I want mine to be WONDERFUL always manages to intrude when it’s time to share. When I hear what others have written I judge my effort as unworthy and keep my mouth closed. I am probably the classic neurotic, introverted writer.

A Quick Write Festival doesn’t seem to be in my future, but I’m curious. Would a Quick Write Festival appeal to you?

* This was first posted after Plein Air 2012. There was intermittent rain that year and the Quick Draw exhibit was in the street as it usually is. This year (2018) there was such heavy rain that the Quick Draw viewing was moved into the Tidewater Hotel. Laura and I had lunch with friends on Masons’ porch, as we have done for many years. Over a lunch with Bloody Marys and Bellinis, we judged umbrellas as they passed us by.

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This one deserved a prize. We have reserved the porch for 2019 and hope for better weather.

 

Six on Saturday – I Heard My Garden Singin’ in the Rain – July 21, 2018

It rained on Tuesday afternoon this week. Several inches. I could hear my garden singing as water became available to parched roots. There will be casualties from the drought and this rain won’t see us through the rest of the hot summer, but it was welcomed by every gardener in the Mid-Atlantic region who got some. Rain here is capricious. Often storms that start on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay don’t make it across to the Eastern Shore. And when they do they may skip areas, but on Tuesday we were blessed.

More rain predicted for today. 100% chance. I’ll take it.

Here are six garden songs for this week.

  1. The schubertii allium heads dried on the stalks. I cut them, spray painted them pink and attached them to bamboo sticks. They look like pink fireworks and will give me some color for the rest of the summer. If I really cared I’d spray paint the duct tape that I used. This winter I’ll spray paint them silver or white and use them for Christmas decorations.

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2.  Yellow day lilies continued to bloom throughout the weeks of no rain. My parents both grew up on Iowa farms and both were gardeners. I think the gardening bug bit me when, as an eight-year-old, I returned to Indiana with a newspaper wrapped root of what my Iowa Grandmother called a lemon lily. I planted it when we got home and it lived and bloomed. I was hooked. How did the rest of you become hooked on gardening?

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3. The Goldsturm rudbeckia have perked up since the rain and will now bloom for weeks.  They are a hardy and reliable perennial in my garden. Upper right hand corner of this photo is Soldago rugosa (commonly called goldenrod.) It blooms bright yellow. I cut it back by half on July 4th. I’ll post a photo when it is blooming.

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4. This coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is happy in dappled shade. Others I had in full sun didn’t suvive. This one keeps coming back.

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5. Zinnias from saved seeds are blooming. Next year I need to get a packet of some that don’t get quite so tall.

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6. We are eating out of the garden. These few Yellow Finn potatoes grew in a patch where I had potatoes last year. Apparently I didn’t get all the babies out of the ground. They are delicious but not worth the bed space for the small harvest. I need to find a better variety. Suggestions?

This bowl will get turned into some German potato salad made with bacon from a local organic pig farmer. Also in the bowl are a few puny radishes I found when I was getting ready to sew a fall crop of turnips. I’ll slice them into a bowl of cucumbers and onions.

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In my beds at the Community Garden I am harvesting small beets and a few tomatoes. Yesterday I made gazpacho with tomatoes, cucumbers and garlic from the garden .

That’s my grateful-for-the-rain Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – The Santa Diaries Goes to Indiana and Maine – July 18, 2018

Laura Ambler and I are over the moon.  Last week we got word that The Santa Diaries will be produced in Crawfordsville, Indiana this year by the Sugar Creek Players as their Christmas Show.

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And then two days later we were approached by the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, Maine who also wanted to do the show. Of course, we said “YES.”

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Laura and I are honored that the original The Santa Diaries has chosen by the Sugar Creek Players and the Chocolate Church Arts Center for production this December.We are big fans of community theaters which play important roles in so many small towns. They build community and often become families for local actors, musicians and front and back of house volunteers.

Community theaters throughout the country have also saved countless buildings. Sugar Creek’s home is a former movie theater, as is the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland where we live. Chocolate Church is one of two iconic Gothic Revival Churches from the 1840’s located in Bath. This church would have been demolished, but local citizens, recognizing its architectural significance and in the spirit of supporting the cultural arts, came together to create The Chocolate Church Arts Center. It received this name because of its unique chocolate brown color that covers the original caramel color it was before it had been painted white. Here’s a link for its interesting history.

The Sugar Creek Players, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, found a permanent home when W. Addington Vance and Myron Pattison deeded the Vanity Motion Picture Theater to them. Prior to that Sugar Creek had been producing shows at Wabash College, in local high schools, gyms and once in a Holiday Inn. In 1988, despite tar paper flooring, folding metal chair seating, and a lack of air conditioning, the opening show in the new theater was a success and the Players finally had a home.

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The cherry on the top of our Christmas pudding is that the sequel to The Santa Diaries will be produced in Faribault, MN by The Merlin Players who commissioned the play. Almost all the actors in the original prodcution of The Santa Diaries will play the same characters — five years later. Brandeee is pregnant but who is the father? The new show is titled: The Santa Diaries: A Christmas Wedding. We are beyond grateful that The Merlin Players reached out to us.

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Our plays will be in three states this December. Laura and I hope to be able to attend some of the shows. A road trip is being planned.

 

Six on Saturday – Getting an Early Start – 7-14-18

  1. It’s too hot to work in the garden past 10 a.m. I can begin watering early, but on this particular morning the colors in the sky beckoned me to walk to the water’s edge so I abandoned hoses for watching the sun rise on the Miles River.

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2. When I got back to the house a few minutes later, I fastened on my toolbelt and began working. I don’t know where I acquired this small toolbelt but I couldn’t garden without it. There is a place that perfectly holds a pair of Fiskars scissors. The orange handles mean I don’t often lose them. They are inexpensive and the tool I use as much as my Felco pruners. This time of year I carry a roll of plastic tape with me as there always seems to be something that needs tying up. And I always have to have something for a drippy nose.

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3. The dusty miller is blooming. I don’t remember seeing it bloom before. This variety wintered over in a pot where a slip of coreopsis was tucked in this spring. It keeps blooming as long as I deadhead it.  The  whorls on the upper left are the remainders of clematis blooms.

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4. Rudbeckia is beginning to bloom and will be gorgeous in another week or so. They droop in these dry conditions but perk up after watering. They are a reliable perennial in my garden withstanding flooding and drought and clay soil.

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5. The veggie beds are not producing well with the heat and dry conditions, but I am harvesting cucumbers. The bumble bees are busy on the cucumber blossoms. The *&%$ squirrels ate the two gorgeous Shah tomatoes I had a photo of last week. I was not happy!  My bed of tomatoes at the community garden is beginning to produce. I’ll be canning tomato sauce in a couple of weeks

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6. Quite a few of the Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum succulents) are sending up blooming stalks. The rosette at the bottom of the stalk will die so there will be some maintenance required on these hypertufa planters I made last fall. I have tried some of the other colors of sempervivums, but the green ones reliably winter over and spread for me.

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I hope you enjoy my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Short Attention Span Theatre – July 11, 2018

Last Sunday I attended (with Laura Ambler and my husband) the Short Attention Span Theatre in Chestertown, Maryland. Performed in the Garfield Center for the Arts,  on Chestertown’s main street, the space used to be a movie theater. Laura spent summers with her grandmother who lived in Chestertown and remembered seeing movies here — sometimes with bats flying in the high ceiling. I saw no bats on Sunday.

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A group of playwrights meets monthly at the Garfield to read each others works and critique them. Here’s a link to more information in case you’re interested in the group. Once a year nine or ten ten-minute plays are selected for production. This is the 14th year for these Short Attention Span Theatre productions. Why did we never get to one before?

During the intermission we smelled popcorn. Laura loves popcorn and went to the concession stand to get some. You could get a beer or a glass of wine but they didn’t have any popcorn. She came back disappointed. We wondered if we were having a folie à deux, the psychiatric term for a shared delusion.  The first ten-minute play after the  intermission had a bowl of popcorn as a prop. Turns out we aren’t as crazy as sometimes we think we are.

We love theater because we always get ideas, and these ten minute plays must be a challenge to write. No time for multiple plot lines. The story is set up right away and moves quickly to the denoument when the threads of the plot are pulled together. Several of the plays relied heavily on physical comedy which also gave us some ideas as what Laura and I write often turns comedic.

We really went to see the show because our writer friend, Brent Lewis, was on the bill. (It was piece of Brent’s writing that I shared on last week’s Wednesday blog post.) His play,  All Over But The Shouting, has only two characters, cranky elderly brothers in a nursing home who think an incoming missile is going to obliterate them in ten minutes. This gives them just a little time to try to resolve every damn argument and misunderstanding before they are blown to bits.

Below are Brent, me, my husband Roger and Laura. Laura’s husband would have been with us but he was flying.

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But I’m really glad we went. Brent’s play was awesome and I know from experience how important it is to have people you know see your work — and like it. Somehow Chestertown, Maryland seems further than going to Baltimore, but it’s not. We need to try harder to see local theater and support all the playwrights, even the ones we don’t know.

Six on Saturday – July 7, 2018 – Rain Dance Visualization

I am writing this on Friday morning, obsessively checking the weather channel radar map to see if the predicted 80% chance of rain is going to get to us. Sometimes it just doesn’t transit across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore. The ground is cracking and I will lose plants if we don’t get significant rain soon. I can’t water enough to keep up. The gardens are looking sad with a few exceptions. Note: it is now almost 7pm and the rain has just skirted around us. My rain dance visualization had no effect. Tomorrow I will haul hoses.

Here’s my six. Only photos that don’t show the desolation…

  1. This small tree is a Vitex or chaste tree. I prune mine to keep it from getting too tall. It’s glorious for a couple of weeks. A native of the Mediterranean area, it doesn’t mind our summer dry spells.Pruning the suckers on the bottom is on the “to do” list, although they do hide a wonky stem that was the result of someone, who shall remain nameless, backing over the plant when it was small.

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2. A couple of years ago I had a wheelbarrow that I didn’t know how to dispose of. So I painted it purple, put potting soil in it and planted it with mint.  I learned my lesson about the invasive quality of mint years ago as a newbie gardener. Now it only goes in elevated pots or containers as the roots will escape through drainage holes. This spring I replaced the soil in the barrow, replanted rooted cuttings and put a chartreuse coleus in the front (because I had been at a nursery and couldn’t help myself). The pot on the right side has left over SunPatiens from planting the window boxes in the front of the house.

I put a drip irrigation hose in the mint which is keeping it fresh, but you can see the drooping yellow jasmine by the fence. I need to run some drip to it.

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3. The cleome that were tiny two weeks ago are going to town despite the drought. The window boxes are planted with SunPatiens which do well given the late afternoon sun on the front of the house. I have drip irrigation in the boxes.

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4. This is heliopsis Burning Heart. I ordered it last spring and it was puny looking when it came. I’ve parked it in one of the raised beds so I could keep an eye on it.

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5. Tomatoes are coming on. These are Shah, a white variety, which I’ve never grown before. The seeds were included with other seeds I’d ordered. Shah’s leaves are different as you can see below the tomatoes. There is also a Sungold in this pot. The leaves of that variety look like traditional tomato leaves.

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6. The photo below shows what happens when you wait too late to prune. I had already cut back the red twig dogwood once but it was over powering the avocado sculpture so I cut it back again. A couple of days of temperatures in the high 90’s with blistering sun and this sun scald is the result. Tony Tomeo wrote a great blog post about summer heat and plants.

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I hope you enjoy my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.