Buckets of rain tonight, accompanied by pea-sized hail - welcomed rain on a dry, wind-blown garden. Hopefully the rain washed off the lingering yellow veil draped over just about everything, revealing shades of green that had been in hiding. Roses are in bloom everywhere - the earliest roses are beginning to fade, resting up until it's time to rebloom - others are just beginning. A small bowl of heirloom roses in the Airstream releases it's fragrance throughout the place - roses like Marchesa Boccella and Souvenir de la Malmaison and Reines des Violettes. The garden grows - it's almost time to harvest the radishes and romaine, the potatoes are in flower (as are a few of the sweet onions), the cabbages are heading up and the sugarsnap peas need another row of twine on their trellis to climb. There are still some 'purple passion' asparagus popping up, and today for the first time the blueberries revealed a hint of blue. The azaleas are mostly gone, and a few camellia buds linger, refusing to let go of this long and splendid spring. A small snake was spotted (suggesting that the air is warming up) and the jalapenos are growing (suggesting even more that the air is warming up). I'm now a bit late planting tomatoes and Kentucky Wonders and okra - but they'll be fine. Maybe I'll through in some birdhouse gourds and sunflowers too. Life is too short to not do so.
My Mom's bearded irises are now blooming like crazy in my own garden. These silly flowers, they certainly keep us connected, don't they? I know that my Mom would be happy to know that they are here, with me, and blooming today - the third anniversary of her passing. Such a gift we still share, this love of the garden.
I returned Tuesday evening from my week-long and event-filled trip to Virginia. A job interview all day Thursday, then travel to my Dad's home in Earlysville, then on my return trip to South Carolina on Tuesday I detoured in Richmond, Virginia to see the Picasso exhibit (wonderful!) at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (and a yummy lunch at their restaurant Amuse) with one of my Mom's sisters.
On Monday, I went to a funeral with my Father. While I was sad to hear about this person's passing, I was glad that I was at home and able to attend the funeral. A life-altering event in this man's life was an event that I remember vividly from my childhood: an evening when my parents received a phone call that a 16 year old from our neighborhood had been hit by a truck as he traveled to visit a college for a football scholarship interview. I was about 11 years old on the evening my parents received the call - and cousins of this young man were brought over to our house, and my parents left to go to the hospital right away. It was a scary evening - unimaginable really - the young man in the accident was the handsome high school quarterback, invincible and strong. His name was Johnny.
My Father was active in sports while I was growing up - he taught my brother's baseball teams (Little League, Babe Ruth League...etc). Johnny's father had died (of leukemia) when Johnny was only 10 years old, and so my Father carted Johnny to and from practices for years - Johnny was often at our home (he was a year older than my brother). Then, three months prior to his accident, Johnny's mother remarried.
I remember overhearing conversations about the accident - how part of Johnny's brain was lying on the car seat beside him when they got to him. He was rushed to the hospital, underwent several surgeries, and unexpectedly survived. He didn't talk again, or walk - he made strange noises, groans and grunts, wore diapers, had to be fed (mostly through a feeding tube) - and he lived this way for 30 years. For all of those years, he was cared for by his mother and his new stepfather. He outlived his own Mother. When his mother passed away, he was cared for by his stepfather. About 10 years ago, Johnny passed away due to complications from pneumonia. He was in his mid-40s. It was Johnny's stepfather's funeral that I attended on Monday.
During all of the years that he cared for his stepson, no one ever heard him complain. He married a young woman with two children (Johnny was 10 and his sister was 11 when their father died, and 16 and 17 when their mother remarried) - I'm sure he wasn't expecting such trajedy to enter his marriage so quickly (if at all). But he never complained.
I was glad that I could be there - one of a small group present at his funeral who remember that night so vividly - that night when an entire family's world changed. The pastor who presented the eulogy at the funeral spoke of quiet saints that walk among us, not craving attention, but who do amazing things. Johnny's stepfather was a quiet saint.
(Again, as I drove out of my Dad's home and Earlysville, I stopped to take a photograph of the white oak on the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport property. Old habits die hard. I'd link to previous posts of this oak - but it's late and I'm tired. Perhaps soon.).
I'm out of town right now - had an interview on Thursday, spent Thursday evening with a college friend, and then on Friday morning I made my way from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville (actually, Earlysville). I've spent the weekend with my Father, and I haven't visited him since the Christmas holiday, which represents the longest period of time in about 4 years that I didn't visit. Since my Mother's cancer diagnosis (four years ago now) - I've become intimate with I-95 and listening to books on my iPod. April 15th will be the third anniversary of my Mother's passing. Time has a strange way of moving along, despite it all, don't you think?
My Father, as many of you know, has vascular dementia. I wish I could describe what it's like, but I can't - except that it's like having someone you know being taken over by an alien being. Remnants of my Dad are most definitely there: he knows who I am, remembers much in the past - but it's as if his entire world has change, his short-term memory is shot, and his comprehension of things is gone in many areas. He knows about certain things, but can't place them in context. Perhaps the most difficult part (for those around him) is that he is not aware of his own dementia - at least he doesn't share with anyone that he is - if anything, he feels that he is fine - and if you hadn't met him until just a few years ago, you might feel that he is fine too. Sadly, he is not the easiest patient - in contrast to the man he was all of my life.
Instead of rambling on about this alien world of dementia, I think instead that I'll just escape into my garden a bit, and share with you some things that I've neglected to mention. Gardens are nice that way.
I first mentioned my Cornus augustata 'Empress of China' about two and a half years ago, when it bloomed the first season after I planted it in my garden (it was the summer of 2008). It didn't bloom for the next two years - but it did grow a bit, so I tried to be patient. This morning I'm happy to report that it has one emerging flower - you can see the center of the flower here, and slowly, over the next few months, creamy white flower bracts (that are only visible as tiny things in this image if you click on it and view it larger) will elongate. I love how late this blooms in comparison to the other dogwoods - and that it's evergreen.
Of Note: I received a cutting of Odontonema strictum, or Firespike, early last summer from a friend's garden - and rooted it. I was brave and put it in the ground in the fall, and we ended up having an unusually cold winter. I was worried that I had lost it - but just a week ago, at the soil line, I saw a shoot appear. Yay! I really like this plant (or at least those I have admired in others gardens). I like these kind of garden surprises.
I am quite unhappy to report that I'm not in love with Camellia japonica 'Lemon Glow'.
I mean, a yellow camellia - no, a commercially available (down-the-street) yellow camellia!
I had high hopes. I like yellow in my garden. 'Mermaid' - delicious. The 1956 'Golden Showers' (which doesn't get the respect it deserves for a rose that demands so little). Yellow mexican sunflowers, sunflowers...daffodils. And I can't forget 'Elizabeth' - the lovely spring-flowering magnolia.
Yep, all wonderful, wonderful yellows.
But this - it's first year in bloom in my garden - it is blooming more of a dirty yellow, not a pale butter yellow.
But I'll forgive it this year (oh hell, I'll never remove it from my garden - lets face facts) - it was a rough first winter in the ground, so we'll see how the color holds in years to come.
Okay, horrible photograph (it's what I had on my card) - but nevertheless, this is the beginning of a lacecap flower of my Hydrangea macrophylla 'Kardinal'... something I find quite exciting (my plant was purchased from Wilkerson Mill Gardens in fall of 2007). It's another of the swiss Teller Series of hydrangeas (named after birds) - the other one I've had for years now and just loved, 'Blaumeise', is simply the most gorgeous shade of cobalt blue anywhere - it's as if several dozen bluebirds are sitting in it's branches when it's in bloom (and the flowers have a little age on them). 'Kardinal' is, as one might expect, red. But I've no idea what the color will be in my acidic garden - I'm hoping it stays on the red side, but I think I'll enjoy it whichever color shows up.
I have a decent spring vegetable garden going this year: two types of garlic, sweet onions, leeks, shallots, red and green cabbages, chinese cabbages, collards, brocolli, cauliflower, carrots, sugarsnap peas, two types of beets, radishes, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, red pontiac potatoes and...parsley. There's also a small patch of strawberries, and some asparagus too.
There's something about a vegetable garden - it's as if it has a direct link into my sanity. If my vegetable garden is bare, then that's an awfully bad sign. As long as something's growing there - even if it's just a few collards or a row or two of leaf lettuce, then the world seems a little more manageable. I think that this spring I've got my garden off to a good start - although I'm sure when I get back to Charleston on Tuesday that I'll find alot of weeds waiting for me. But that's okay - the vegetable gardens are full this spring, so I can handle anything.
I'm in Virginia until Tuesday morning - when I'll head to Richmond for a quick stop at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for the Picasso Exhibit and lunch (with my Mom's sister and her husband) - then back on I-95 and home to the Airstream and my garden, and on Wednesday morning I'll pick up the crazy (and much missed) dogs from the kennel.
The grace with which many flowers fade always amazes me - supple leaves that turn into thin sheets of the finest paper, etched with veins, coloring developing a richness that (at least to me) overshadows the lovliness of the fresh flower. These daffodils were in a vase, in my Airstream, for the past week or more - and now here they are, even more beautiful.
I head up to Virginia tomorrow for my first 'formal' job interview in 17 years. It's for a temporary two year position, and while it's not something that I would have planned, it's an interesting opportunity. All-day interview on Thursday, staying Thursday night at the home of a college friend, then I'll head to Charlottesville for the weekend and spend it with my Dad. I'm hoping that I'll catch the tail end of my Mother's daffodils - previously shown here, here, and here and here (and here too). It's hard to believe that as of 15 April, that it will have been three years that she's been gone, since she's worked in her own garden.
Perhaps the obsession keeps one from, well, obsessing over stupid things and working themselves into a frenzy, hence protecting synapses... perhaps being obsessed about something, anything, keeps you you too busy to care about your own mortality (I mean, me...die? But I have more roses to plant. I most definitely don't have time to die today.)
This is my camellia-obsessed friend, Skip, holding the camellia that he said was his wife's favorite - 'Mary Wheeler'.
He turned 92 years old this week.
Wait, I'll rephrase - he turned 92 years young. I now know why one says that - it's reserved for the kind of person who several months before their 92nd birthday decide they need a new (and larger) chainsaw because - of course - they must use it atop a 20' ladder because they have to cut down branches that are producing too much shade over the camellias.