Relaxing in the Back Garden

Posted by mrssmythe on July 16, 2018 in Garden |

At this point in the growing season, I’ve fallen behind. Things need to be weeded, staked, and dead-headed. I need more mulch. The lawn clamors for attention and the containers on the porch need to be watered. I don’t think I ever end a day with my to-do list completely finished. It can be frustrating.

But the back yard is one place I can relax to some degree. Part of that stems from the fact that no one really sees the backyard, and I don’t feel as much of an urgency to keep it tidy. But also, I have planted things there that are much more easy to care for, and, now that they are coming into their own, they are doubly nice because they look pretty with so little work.

These lilies, for example –

I didn’t even plant these. I have no idea how they got there – smack dab at the base of an enormous Pine – but, there they are, and they’re lovely.

This Milkweed was also a “volunteer”. I almost yanked it earlier in the season, not realizing what it was.

Now, it’s a beacon that draws monarch butterflies to the pumpkin patch.

And speaking of the pumpkin patch…

The Cinderella pumpkins are growing exponentially. They’re already a buttery yellow – much different than the Sugar pumpkins, which remain green until the end of the growing season.

As you can see, I’m starting to see plenty of those, too.

Nearby, the raspberries are beginning to ripen.

These are like a gift. Aside from beating them back (they attempt an annual take-over), I don’t have to do anything, and even with this neglect, they seem to do well and put out plenty of fruit.

Another “volunteer” – this Evening Primrose, as descendant of one given to me years back by my neighbor to the south.

I’d move it to a more visible location, but it popped up through the planks on the back deck, so I can’t get to its roots. Oh, well. It seems to be happy enough for now.

One of the few flowers I’ve actually planted in the back is this yellow herb – a gift from my neighbor to the north.

It’s called Tansy, is pleasingly tall, and is unlike any flower I’ve ever seen – no petals, just little button centers. It makes a nice addition to the wild, pollinator-friendly area surrounding our back deck. Plus, it is said to repel insects, and, being somewhat invasive, should be able to hold its own with the prolific Mint and Wild Thyme growing nearby.

All of these plants are a joy to me at this time of the year when everything else is clamoring for attention. What a relief to have some plants low on maintenance yet high on returns.

From the dining room table, hoping you are blessed with similar, easy-to-care-for plants in your own garden,

Mrs. Smythe




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Some Sensible Choices

Posted by mrssmythe on July 9, 2018 in Baking, Celebrations, Garden, Out & About, Week in Review |

Did you enjoy your Fourth of July? Ours was boiling hot. We opted to be sensible rather than patriotic and went to see a movie instead of a paradeI can only imagine how hot and sweaty all of the parade-goers were that day. It was beastly And, I kept thinking of all of the people who had to be in the parade – the Shriners in their hats and blazers, Mrs. Massachusetts perched on the back of a convertible (all of that hot, reflecting metal!), the musicians in their polyester uniforms, the gymnasts turning cartwheels on the hot asphalt….I felt sorry for all of them.

Later, I put together a nice meal with an angel food cake for dessert. Half of the family likes frosting, the other half does not, so, I made another sensible choice and only frosted half the cake:

If you’re interested, the recipe for the frosting I used can be found HERE. It was light and fluffy and perfect for topping an angel food cake…and easy too. I definitely recommend it.

On Friday, the girls and I drove north to Yankee Candle headquarters. Normally, we go in the fall, but Piper had a hankering for fudge, and I was eager to see what sort of landscaping they’d put together for summer.

The plants were flawless – the mulch abundant – the lawn edged to perfection. “Why doesn’t my garden look like this?” I wailed (via text) to CPT A. He came back with a sensible reply: “Because you don’t have a team of ten gardeners.” Which was just a guess. We don’t really know how many gardeners Yankee Candle employs, but certainly they have someone who can devote his or her full attention to the project. Someone who doesn’t have to stop working to make lunch for people, or delay weeding to walk the dogs, or run to the store for milk when they discover they’ve run out. I also assume they’re using chemicals. Really, though, whoever is responsible has done a lovely job of arranging everything and the gardens are an absolute joy to behold.

In my own garden, the first of the pumpkins are appearing.

These are “Cinderella” pumpkins, a French heirloom variety which, according to the seed packet, were the inspiration for the pumpkin-turned-carriage in the fairytale.

Not far away, the bell peppers are coming along nicely.

I’ve never grown these before, so it has been a treat to watch them develop.

And, in the rock garden, the hens and chicks are…blooming.

Did you know hens and chicks bloomed? I had no idea they could do that. I should have shot the flower in profile as well so you could see how tall the stalk is – a good nine inches!

In the front yard, the hydrangeas are looking lovely –

such a gorgeous shade of blue, and so nice next to the green of their leaves.

And here is an herb that I almost pulled out thinking it was a weed:

It must be a descendant of last year’s borage which grew in the same spot. This plant is enormous, though, so I didn’t think to link the two until it began to bloom. I’m so glad I didn’t yank it out.

Something that did need to be yanked out:

Can you see the wasps’ next in the top right corner of the barn’s upper door? Pepper discovered that Sunday, and CPT America smoked the wasps out early Monday morning and disposed of the empty nest a few hours later. I slept through the whole business…which is probably for the best. I’m so glad he didn’t get stung.

From the dining room table, pleased to report that the coming week’s weather will be much cooler than last week’s was – warm enough for swimming, but mild enough for sleeping (Hooray!),

Mrs Smythe





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Heat Wave, Sewing, and Plant Rescues

Posted by mrssmythe on July 2, 2018 in Crafting, Critters, Garden, Out & About, Week in Review |

Is it hot where you’re at? It’s boiling here. Currently, we’re looking at a week’s worth of temperatures in the high 90s. Humidity will put the “real feel” well into the 100 degree range. We’re cooking.

What’s strange, is that last Wednesday it was positively chilly. I know because that’s the day we bought our pond pass for the season, and Ginger, being an avid swimmer, insisted on tootling out to the docks. You can just make out her head in the water of the photo below.

I felt so sorry for the lifeguard who had to accompany her. That water was cold!

Happily, for Ginger, things turned around by Friday. We drove to a waterslide park about an hour west of us and it was plenty hot that day.

Here, too, the water was cold, but at least the warmer temperatures made it feel refreshing rather than miserable.

Not everyone likes the heat, though. Warmer temperatures have taken a toll on the perennials for sale at the garden centers and supermarkets. Here you see a group of plants (Aurinia and Saxifrage) I “rescued” earlier in the week.

As spring bloomers, they were considered past their prime and, anyway, the supermarket had to make room for a shipment of impatiens potted in planters that looked like mannequin feet in flip flops. The plants you see in the photo were all marked down to $1. I grabbed as many as I could fit in the car and even scaled back my grocery list to make room for more plants. Priorities.

Later in the week, I found herbs discounted at the store where we buy pet food. I grabbed two kinds of oregano that I thought would work well in a dry, rocky spot I have in the front yard.

Someone else that doesn’t like the heat – Ursa!

Here you see clippings from the third round of shaving CPT A did on her over the weekend. She was getting terribly matted and seemed to be pretty uncomfortable as the temperatures climbed.

Now she’s sporting a buzz cut, and, aside from looking like she has a head much too large for her body, is much improved. With all of that extra fur gone, she’s perked up considerably.

I’m hoping she isn’t feeling energetic enough to resume the digging she was doing under the backyard shed, though. She found a woodchuck’s den and seems intent on visiting the occupant.

And, finally, I started a new project this past week. I’m trying to sew a dress.

I have very limited experience sewing, so I’m having to look up a lot of things on line and in books as I go. Each step seems to take forever. But, happily, I managed to finish the bodice yesterday.

It’s a very simple kimono style dress I found in a magazine. You can see a photo of what it will (hopefully) look like when I’m finished HERE. I’d love to have it done by Sunday to wear to church but…we’ll see. Right now I’m working at a snail’s pace.

From the dining room table, needing to walk the dogs early today before it gets too hot,

Mrs. Smythe




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The Impatient Gardener

Posted by mrssmythe on June 25, 2018 in Garden |

Several weeks back, I had the idea to plant Morning Glories near the base of the front porch. I thought it would be nice to have them wind their way up the support beams and make what I hoped would be a lovely display later in the summer. So, I bought a packet of seeds, and though I wanted to plant them immediately, I did as the seed packet directed and soaked them for 24 hours. After planting them, I checked every few days for about a week. Nothing happened. I gave up.

Soon afterward, I found ready-made Morning Glories available at the local nursery. I bought three, and, when I got them home to plant…

I discovered that the seeds I’d planted had germinated after all. I’d given up on them too soon. Now, I had three enthusiastic looking seedlings already in place. Suddenly, I had to expand my planting vision.

And, as I walked around the front yard, wondering where I’d squeeze in three more plants, I told myself that if I’d just waited a few more days…if I hadn’t given up on those seeds so soon…I wouldn’t have been in that fix. (Though, truthfully I didn’t mind having the extra plants. I was more concerned with my own lack of patience).

I seem to have a hard time waiting. It’s a problem that surfaces frequently in the garden. I’ve planted over the tops of things that are slow to surface. I’ve pulled things out, thinking they were dead. And seeds that don’t germinate quickly run the risk of being replaced with something more instantly gratifying. Terrible, I know. Really, I need to learn to handle it better. After all, so much of gardening is about waiting.

Waiting for flowers to open….

Waiting for vegetables to mature…

Waiting for shrubs and trees to become established…

The list goes on and on.

And, as frustrating as all of this is, I know it’s very good for me. Having to wait is teaching me that I can’t have everything on my own timetable, that here are things beyond my control. Many things, actually. Like the rate at which apples ripen….

From the front porch, waiting for things to dry out after a much-needed summer rainstorm,

Mrs. Smythe





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Posted by mrssmythe on June 18, 2018 in Garden, Musings with Comments closed |

There have been so many changes in our neighborhood this season. One neighbor pulled out an entire hedgerow of shrubs, leaving only juvenile trees behind in their place. Another took out a large stand of, ancient pines, dramatically changing the light on that end of the block. Finally, around the corner, an elderly neighbor either passed away or moved to a care facility. Her house is now being rapidly overhauled as the owners prepare to sell. One morning, all of the overgrown shrubs in her front hard were yanked. The next, a new roof went on. It’s amazing how quickly these things can be done with enough people and the right equipment.

I think about that last neighbor often as I walk by her house now in the mornings. I think of her yard and how much she must have loved it – at least that’s how it appeared. I often saw her out front, reading a paper with her tropical bird in a cage beside her on the driveway. Or I’d see her cutting the lawn with an old, under-powered mower, raking the leaves in fall, or carefully tilling the soil around her hydrangeas. Now, her plants are blooming – it was the spirea this week – and she’s not there to see them. It makes me sad. I wonder, does the garden miss her? Do the plants know?

Down the road, another gardener’s house is up for sale – a gardener who plants dahlias in profusion every spring, a gardener who always fills a sizable garden cart in the front yard with colorful annuals. Now she’s moving. I don’t think there will be dahlias this year…and that, too, makes me feel sad.

It reminds me that gardens – and gardeners – aren’t permanent things. This year, I’ll miss these things and people I’ve come to rely on as part of the summer landscape here. And, all of these changes have motivated me even more to enjoy neighborhood gardens (and gardeners!) while they are blooming, while they are here.

From the dining room, table, hoping I haven’t depressed you too much with today’s musings…

Mrs. Smythe

P.S. – The photos in this blog represent recent changes we’ve made to our own yard; new foxgloves out front, a new rock wall, a dead tree taken down, a bird bath in a new spot. It’s a good reminder that all change isn’t necessarily bad.






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