A Most Beautiful Masterpiece…in the Making

Took a walk through the garden this morning, enjoyed the sporadic showers, all of the fat drops catching the light and streaming rainbows. The morning was magical! I found this little guy on the patio…I was hoping he wasn’t dead, just getting an early start on sunning since it’s been raining cats and dogs lately. I’m still not quite sure of his living status.

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I’m reading a few books on gardening I recently got from the library. Many of the authors start out sort of svengali on the design/layout, lording over what can grow where and how much space can be taken up by each plant. Ruthlessly culling those that have been deemed to have pushed whatever bounds too far. Many also had preconceived notions about self-seeders being crazy pernicious weeds (and many also changed their ways and let the self-seeders be).

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I began with the opposite penchants. Nursing every seedling that poked its cotyledon out of the ground for a look-see. Even when many turned out to be so-called weeds, I let them go…these were still quite beautiful. Yellow primrose, thistle, Queen Anne’s lace…and here in California, fava bean, clover, mallow, wild geranium, and milk thistle.

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I crammed small seedlings into compact spaces, only trimming so that bedfellows had an equal footing. I didn’t care if they spilled out into the walkway…I actually kind of liked that. The riot of growth felt very bohemian.

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As for self-sowers, I can’t imagine late spring and early summer without all the California poppies and blue nigella (above, in the midst of the garlic) that have taken fateful matters into their own hands since that February three years ago when I first threw a few seeds into the dirt.

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And I frequently disregarded grow zone suggestions, especially if the range of the plant was just one off from my own (zone 9). The blackberry cuttings you can purchase at the garden store here supposedly only grow to zone 8, but I have a few canes behind the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired trellis. They are thriving.

I also find that plants that are accustomed to regions unlike my own can in fact grow here if I find and utilize the right microclimate in the yard.

Check out this hardy fuchsia above…I was afraid there wasn’t a spot in the back that would provide adequate shade at the hottest part of a summer day and be able to retain sufficient moisture for this plant. But she seems to be doing just fine…I was excited to find a couple new shoots!

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Found an onion amidst the pink evening primroses! I cleared this part of the bed out recently and was afraid that I wouldn’t have a glorious batch of Oenothera this summer and fall…I had no need to worry, as just a few remnant runners are more than enough to send out some shoots!

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Pest control is another story. I’m at my wits’ end with our gopher problem. They cleared out an entire tier of vegetables this winter. They started munching on my Lantana (above the Shasta daisies), but I spread a lot of red pepper flakes around the area, mixed them into the dirt, and they haven’t been back to this spot. And these Shastas were almost another casualty, even though the gophers don’t seem to really like them…they just recently started some fragile new growth…

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Littlefoot is our only chicken left now. Raccoons got Lucky and Star…I am going to wait to get new chicks until I am finished with my credential program. Dreaming of building a new spacious coop in the coming months and have been busy perusing free plans. I want to use all reclaimed materials. I have all the tools I need.

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The apple and pear trees have lots of spurs this year…I am looking forward to the harvest. I had to cut a few bigger branches this year, including one that was competing with the leader.

When we first moved here four years ago, the trees hadn’t been pruned for what I can only guess was a very long time. There were so many lateral branches, waterspouts, and a shaggy unrestrained growth of leaves…but no fruit. My dad helped me prune the apple tree the first year, and we had so many apples that I had enough applesauce for baking for the next year. I pruned after that but didn’t realize that the tree was spur-bearing and nipped off all of the spikes, so we haven’t had apples for a while.

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But this time, I was careful. We’re going to have quite a yield this year!

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And another project to finish–level out the dirt in the steps we just put in, lay down landscaping cloth and top with stones. Look how magnificent that live oak is…sometimes a red-shouldered hawk comes and perches on the left boughs, eyeing whatever scurries through the grasses and Russian olive below. Hopefully I’ll get a picture of him one day.

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
― Claude Monet

Seeking Warmth

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Drawing number 2 “Seeking Warmth” is finished. This is a drawing of winter, when the cold in the air outside has a bite and keeps everything still and quiet. When the sound of falling snow makes you think of wood fires and yellow light and mulled wine and reading books for hours. The animals are in the burrows and dens, huddling into their coats and snuggling up to each other.

I grew up in an underground house and loved coming in out from the dark cold into the bright warmth inside of our little hobbit hole. The dog would curl right up under the wood stove, loving the blast of heat; in fact, she still does that. You could smell biscuits or bread baking in the oven; the tea kettle would be whistling; the radio would be playing softly in the background. The blue of the outside through the window contrasted so well with the cozy yellow of the kitchen and living room.

Drawing and a Trip to the Farm

I’ve become an early riser this week in order to get more drawing time in during the day. By the time early evening comes around and the sun starts to go down, I’m beat and I don’t want to do anything other than drink tea and read a book. So, all this week I’ll be setting my alarm clock for 6, maybe even earlier if this is a successful venture.

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This past Friday, the girls and I went to Ardenwood Farm. I LOVE going to farms: so much inspirational material! The girls love the chickens and the goats, but my littlest is not very fond of pigs in the flesh–she loves the movie Babe, but stand her anywhere near a pigpen and she’s not a happy camper. I love them, though. They have the life (at least until they get to be optimum size).

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I love going to this farm in particular because of the eucalyptus trees and old farmhouse with its cottage gardens and gazebo. I like the mix of plants: there are a lot of traditional cottage flowers, like irises and columbine and roses, but there are also a lot of tropical and subtropical specimens. I’m planning a drawing of a cottage garden for sometime in the near future–they are just so magical. You can almost see the fairies fluttering around the leaves and petals!

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I need to find my little Canon Elph camera for our next excursion. I like that better than using my phone, and combined with a little Photoshop Elements, I really like how the pictures turn out.

Hopefully will finish the “Stillness” drawing this afternoon!

THROUGH the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding;
And haze, and vista, and the far horizon, fading away.

–Walt Whitman