Friday, June 24, 2011


In someone's eyes this garden is a twinkle. Could it be the result of a homeowner with a craving for acres of space? It is such a small wedge of a corner plot; and such a grand example of twee. 

Arch and Outhouse
A gravel path lined with neatly tended miniature succulents wends its way through the tableau, passing tiny stone mushrooms and fallen pillars and a little fountain planted with bits of green stuff and finally arriving at a frilly white metal arch, besides which sits an outhouse. Perhaps for a visiting fairy that can't depend on her Depends.  

The Cafe
Tucked back a bit, a dwarf fir tree forms the backdrop for a doll-house sized cafe table and chairs. Maybe that's why the fairy needs a latrine.

Baked Birds

Shakira & Vinnie

The Prince announced, the other night, that his recent rusty cough might be due to some parakeet pestilence.

"They carry disease," he hacked. Of course, he was referring to our pair of feral birds, who he believes dislike him. This is why I think they stand (or perch) accused.

I suggested that we should therefore eat them and if the cough clears, we'll get two more. On the plus side, next time we will know better than to let them loose, to foul the little greenhouse with seed husks and incredibly sticky shit.

On the minus side, they'd be a mere forespice, a lagniappe--a tidbit--as there appears to be little more to them but feathered bones.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Who Needs Flowers?

Sometimes plants are not the most delightful things about a garden -- and sometimes a garden can be evoked without a plant in sight.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bits & Bobbles, Trash to Treasure

Creative reuse of life's odds and ends gilded the gardens at this year's Philadelphia Flower Show
Click on the slide show for a better view


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kumquat Revisited

Kumquat in the Garden
The kumquat, puchased several days ago as a fragrant addition to the aviary greenhouse outside my office has been removed to the garden, where it sits next to a pale pink hydrangea. It is lovely to look at but harder to sniff.

I was not the only one delighted with the kumquat's sweet scent, Shakira, the male of my pair of feral parakeets immediately found it delicious, within an hour he was discovered chewing on a cluster of white blossoms -- I had to swat him away, risking life and limb.

The birds have gone mad. NEVER uncage your budgies. 

A Rambling Tale of Hydrangeas

Margot brought me the first hydrangea as a hostess gift; that was maybe ten years ago.  She didn't know that my nose twisted at the thought of such a fusty flower. Hydrangeas, blue ones, along with rose of sharon (which I disliked even more) were stalwarts of the garden that surrounded the house that David bought when we threw in the marital towel. (I since wed The Prince, with whom I have continued to live in harmonious discord for nearly three decades).

That house was quite the argument for staging. It had been on the market for many months without an offer, despite an excellent location in upper Northwest Washington, a pleasing front porch, large sunny rooms and an increasingly modest price tag--so victimized was it by its owner's deranged sense of style.

From the foyer you could see the kitchen straight ahead, the living room to the left, and glimpse the dining room beyond that. Each room was festooned in a violent clash of wallpaper and foul and greasy-looking synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting.  The most outstanding architectural elements were the radiators and exposed pipes running to the ceilings of each room.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Behold the purple petunia. 

Well, that was the intention. I set off this morning to stomp about and jostle the brain and encountered one of those THOUGHTS which tend to occur only while in open motion (as opposed to pacing about the living room).
I will, I said to myself, transplant the key lime and the honey bell orange to a single large pot (I don't know which is which anymore and won't until the maybe some year when one or the other of them sports a fruitie) and I will stick the newly sprouted moonflower seedlings in the middle (where Vinnie and Shakira are maybe less likely to peck them to death) and since this will be rather dull until the moonflowers flower I will find some deep purple petunias, the ones that smell so hauntingly sweet, and I will poke them here and there in the pot and it will all be a very nice addition to the naked corner of the aviary/greenhouse where I've stuck the orange paper parasol.

This exercise will cost me maybe $2.98 or near to it, I triumphantly added as I flip flopped into the Frager's hardware garden center.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Maureen Shapiro Thompson

Maureen and Peter
Time Traveling........

I don't know where to start, so I'll start in the middle, with a story I've told so many times... remembering the velvety black of the night and Maureen and I leaving the pub in Colchester, lurching home past the house we were certain was abandoned and sneaking a clutch of flowers from the yard ... to be stopped by a policewoman who in memory is nine feet tall with a shadow double her height stretched behind her on the sidewalk.

You there, she bellowed. That's private property.

But it's empty, said Maureen or was it me? That's what's happened with some of the stories over time, which of us did what. Could have been either of us by that point.

I remember things scattershot.

How unwelcoming I was that first day in New York, spoiled brat. Someone phoned to say that Bea Shapiro's daughter Maureen is in town from California. She's on her way to Europe.

My mother nudged me, "Call her. Ask her to dinner."

"Maureen Shapiro?? What kind of a name is that?"   

But I called her and invited her and she showed up all laughing eyes and flying curls, clutching a bottle of Blue Nun (back then we could drink in New York at 18). And by the end of dinner somehow I was being bundled off with Europe via Iceland.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Suzanne's and Frogs and Stuff I Want

Suzanne's Pool House*

There's no such thing as a free tadpole. Suzanne has swarms of them, millions probably, in the little pond beside the pool at Bear Haven, her country house near Sperryville, Virginia.  "Take some," she said. So we did, or rather, The Prince did, scooping a dozen or so into an empty bottle for the drive back to the city and a new home in our pond; currently naked save for the statue of the headless woman, pointlessly pouring water in an endless stream over the rocky ledge. 

Ah, Frogs.

We've had frogs before. The night noise is evocative of something. Coons got 'em. Eviscerated and stinking remains left on the white wicker sofa--well, shouldn't he be comfortable while dining? No doubt he snickered as he and his blood-soaked whiskers skittered away to where ever he lurks in the daytime. 

He got the fish too. First the costly koi and then the gold and black splotched "feeder fish" that pet snakes are so fond of. We bought them in batches, ten for a dollar. Feeder fish, ha.

The trick, Suzanne says is to set a pot on its side on the pond floor so the fish and the frogs have somewhere to hide from marauders. It also helps to put the fountain on a timer, night critters are attracted by the sound of running water, she said.

Actual useful sounding tips, take note!

A Mirror Up to Nature

The Prince brings home a great deal of trash. Sadly, he won an award from the city based in part on his compulsive scavenging.

And once anything is in his clutches, he can't let go. This is why an ancient and crappy and partially dismantled (don't ask) upright piano has been occupying a third of the back porch for the past six weeks -- the old hulk is worth something, right? Ivory keys?

Unfortunately the garage is too full for it to fit. As is a friend's garage that he borrowed some years ago, and the basement, and I won't even mention the attic because hauling a piano through a hatch in the linen closet is not feasible, even if there was space. Baby's Gameboy, circa 1990, will be worth something someday, even if the front of the case is cracked and the battery hatch is...somewhere.Won't it?

But sometimes he drags home something happy-making. Like the  frameless oval mirror that leaned against the piano for a week or so before I had my eureka moment.

Nah, truth be, there was no eureka moment. There was a moment of utter frustration when I was about to toss a brick through it (oops) but instead stuck it in the back of a garden border, leaning against the wall and found that it prettily reflected the flowers and foliage, obscured an unsightly tangle of vine, and created a day dreamy hole in my universe....a through the looking glass world (where the porch wicker is not heaped high to accommodate a musical corpse and the ceiling fan functions -- that's number twenty on the to-do list).

But how can I be bitter when ANOTHER large mirror appeared the other day, offering another escapist opportunity. (Rarely is there ever too much of a good thing, I say).  So here is the facing border, which happens to be undergoing a dark and unsightly period until the elephant ear emerges to fill a yawning gap.

Instead of a bare fence covered in a straggle of honeysuckle and ivy, the new/old mirror reflects a coleus and a red hibiscus (that is doing surprisingly well considering the dearth of sunshine in this particular spot), and a mammoth hydrangea (which has decided to be blue instead of pink this year).

Quite the improvement, thank you dear, she says, contemplating an oops moment for the damn piano.

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