Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mixed blooms

As previously noted, back in the spring or thereabouts I hastily planted a couple of little packs of seedlings, labeled only as mixed zinnias. You don't have to be a deeply experienced gardener to have learned that "mixed" in this context can mean anything from "our own uniquely tasteful blend" to "color unknown", and to suspect that spindly little seedlings in an inexpensive pack fall into the latter category.
As it turns out, the seedlings from the first pack, planted behind the house, are all a vivid hot pink bordering on magenta--except for one white one. The ones from the second pack, planted in front, have been paler--a weak pink, white, a faded salmony orange--except for the most recent one, which is taller and hot pink like the ones in back, and attracted a hummingbird this afternoon.
We have had at least two hummingbirds in and out of the yard lately, sometimes arcing towards each other as they fly upward. I don't know if this is some sort of territorial challenge, or courtship, or play.

Vicissitudes of suburban life

If you live in a suburban house, however small, you almost certainly have a lawn, which must be not only mowed but also (especially if you can't quite mow up to the fence or flower beds) trimmed or edged in some way. People used to do this manually, of course, or their gardeners did, but the modern standard suburban "I don't have time for this" approach is to use a string trimmer.
Our current electric trimmer is the latest in a succession of unsatisfactory helpers. Purchased a month or so ago to replace an earlier model that literally went up in smoke after tying itself up in daylily leaves, it initially showed great promise. It had a new feature that fed 2 filaments instead of just one, by some magic we admired without feeling that we needed to understand it. That blissful ignorance ended today, when the self-feeding spool stopped feeding, leaving the trimmer with just a single 2 inch bit of filament and an unhealthy whine in its voice. I got it open and thought I had succeeded in advancing the filament manually, hoping to at least finish the front yard tonight. But moments later the spool exploded out of its housing, leaving me with this:


The only solutions I can think of, short of digging up the lawn, are to buy another spool (because this 2-ended version can't use the spools left from its predecessor) or to buy another trimmer. It all makes a kind of sense when you realize that the manufacturer needs people to keep buying filament, or trimmers, or ideally both.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Start at the back door to see:
--Tiger swallowtails and a monarch sharing the butterfly bushes and a hot pink zinnia.
--By 8 a.m. sun like a spotlight on the orangey red zinnias, cosmos, blackeyed susans, and echinacea in the back corner. (The year is turning around: A few weeks ago the sun arrived at 7:30.)
--Hummingbird swooping past the butterfly bush and up into a hemlock two yards away
Moving to the front yard, don't miss the bumble bees, and an occasional honey bee (suggesting a nearby beekeeper?).
Head down the street to the next corner and startle goldfinches who rise, twittering, out of a neighbor's mass of echinacea going to seed.
Further down the street, pause to admire the Sri Lankan monks' peppers and beets growing neatly at the feet of a statue of the Buddha meditating tranquilly in a 50 year old American suburban lawn.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blooming volunteer

It started out looking small and weedy. It survived in a thin patch of soil, and bowed to the mower without losing its head. Once I recognized as a zinnia, I protected it with a leftover bit of wire edging and waited, hoping it would prove to be a true zinnia in color, and not some bleached pastel. It began to show a nice bit of yellow on August 8:


And here it is today:


Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Stayed home today. A monarch visited the large hot violet pink zinna. Later I got to sit in the shade on the back step, sipping my tea and watching four tiger swallowtails on the white butterfly bush.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Eating Summer

Thursday evening, on my way to meet my knitting pals, I stopped at the Penn Quarter Farmers' Market and bought nectarines, peaches, and green beans from Maryland and Pennsylvania farmers.
Saturday morning I went off to the Kensington Farmers' Market again. I came home with tomatoes, eggplant, yellow squash, peppers, blueberries, and more peaches, all from Maryland. Then I went to MOM and got some local zucchini and mushrooms from Pennsylvania, as well as some Maryland Cherry Glen goat cheese.
I've been eating peaches, nectarines, and/or blueberries with Greek-style yogurt and a little granola every morning. I had a tomato and some goat cheese for lunch.
Tonight for our dinner I'll make some version of ratatouille, perhaps with polenta, and some garlicky green beans on the side. (And a little California wine!)

More about the Zinnias

The first two are the ones finally blooming from the early seedlings I planted. The third is a volunteer, presumably selfsown from last year's mix of Dreamland and State Farm. Can't wait to see the color!
  • Salmony Orange


  • Hot Violet-pink


  • The Volunteer


Saturday, August 01, 2009


It started out to be the year without zinnias. Hopeful early visits to the nearest garden center were disappointing, and travel cut into my home gardening time. Two little market packs of spindly zinnia seedlings distributed between the front of the house and a spot in back near the fence grew slowly into discouraged-looking plants with no buds in sight.

The discouragement wasn't only local. The slightly larger plants purchased and planted in my parents' garden were beaten down by Maine's wet weather and devoured by slugs.

Not until the end of July did my plants begin to show buds, with two of them blooming this week: a pleasingly hot violet pink in the back and an anemic salmon orange in front.

Meanwhile, a stocky mystery plant had begun to grow on the edge of the back walk, or rather (because it hasn't actually been edged in quite some time) in the meager layer of soil gradually building up on the edge of the aging pavement. Curious, or perhaps unconsciously recognizing a familiar form, I let it grow. Now it has a bud, and is clearly a zinnia. I can't wait to see what color it turns out to be. Will it be one of the hot zinnia colors I love, or a weak pastel? In either case, it tells me that next year I should just plant some seeds.