“Take thy plastic spade, It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants, They are thy colours. – William Mason, The English Garden, 1782
This is the first in a series of posts written after a summer of Covid-19 pandemic quarantine. I believe we as a society have exhausted all the negative adjectives (uncertain, unprecedented, unimaginable, etc) for this period in history, so in order to best represent this time for me, I’m just going to call it Home Time.
My husband, Dick, and I have been home since March 13. He is already retired and my school went remote in March to keep everyone safe and to try to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. We are lucky to have a home we love. My stepsons and my son are adults who have established their own lives, so it is just the two of us in the day-to-day. We get along well, our strengths are very different, yet they complement each other. My husband is a gentleman farmer and we live on a small farm with alpacas, goats, chickens, and doves. I am an artist/educator who enjoys painting, creating art with technology, and working with clay. I am lucky to have both a summer pottery studio and an indoor art studio.
Living on a small farm provides many opportunities for divertissement. The gardens and animals keep us physically busy in the out of doors and provide visually interesting subject matter for photography.. The bird feeders placed just outside the window afford me opportunities to photograph visitors from close proximity. Within our empty nest, although it is a modest space, I am lucky to have places to work on my artwork, including an indoor studio for 2D work and a rustic pottery studio in a barn. Earlier this year in April, I took over the dining room to set up a mask making station. Although I hated to occupy the dining room this way, we haven’t been able to host indoor visitors anyway, and I’ve cranked out 60+ masks for friends, family, and to donate. Interesting to note, this has been a great exercise in design thinking, as I worked through four iterations before arriving at one I really like.
These posts about school summer vacation will primarily focus on Home Time and how I’ve spent my summer in this space. In today’s post, I’d like to share some of my photos of the flowers that have provided an endless array of color and vitality throughout the spring and summer of Home Time. In future posts I plan to share about the farm animals, backyard birds, my pottery, family connections, and my husband’s recent hobby, all with a focus on the silver linings found in pandemic quarantine.
There’s something about gardening that is so rewarding for me. Enjoying the sometimes literal fruit of our labor is the most obvious best part, yet this year especially, finding the Zen in the activities of digging, planting, and pruning is helpful in maintaining purpose and focus in my life.
While I am the planner for the gardens and take responsibility for the flowers, I would have to scale it way back without the help of my husband, Dick, and his experience and agility gleaned from thirty years experience as a landscaper. Whether tackling the large pruning tasks around the yard, or preparing soil to welcome new plantings, he is always knowledgeable and willing to help.
We look forward to Memorial Day weekend every year because in New England, it has come to symbolize planting time without fear of frost. We can plant seeds underground earlier and perennials have often emerged from the soil, but the safe planting of annuals doesn’t take place much before then.
It is very important to us to get the plantings in at the cemetery before the Sunday of Memorial Day, especially for my two veterans – my late husband (Marine Corps) and my father (Navy). Our local Boy Scout troop places flags at the graves of veterans on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day weekend and red geraniums on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Here is a view of the cemetery with the calls of a Baltimore Oriole overhead:
And some shots of the cemetery with perennial Stargazer Lilies and Yucca plants blooming:
I couldn’t be more pleased with these Yucca plants. While visiting a former professor in Harwich in about 2000, my son and I dug up the roots from a tangled mass in his yard. “I doubt they’ll ever grow”, he said, ‘but take them anyway.” I’m so glad we did! They are positively majestic when they flower.
Over the years when we visit the Brimfield Flea Markets (closed this year) I keep my eyes peeled for porcelain enamel bowls to use as planters. When we get them home, we drill holes in the bottom for drainage and use them around the yard for potted plants. This year, our garden center was not nearly as well stocked due to the pandemic, but there was enough variety for the pots. Based on availability, I decided on a pink, periwinkle, and off-white theme this year. The pots go crazy throughout the summer. I trim them at least weekly and feed them every few weeks.
Another garden tradition is the zinnias I plant along the front walkway. The local garden center, Angel’s, always sets aside a flat or two of State Fair Zinnias for me. I plant them in May and watch them gradually take root and grow as much as six feet tall.
I love the annual cycle of perennial blooms probably even more than the immediate, delightful display of annuals, believe it or not. The anticipation and expectation of first blooming Crocus, Daffodil, Hyacinth, Jonquil, Tulips, and Irises in succession throughout the early spring are a colorful reward for tolerating winter.
And then further on in June, the purples of Lupine, Clematis, Bee Balm, and the orange of Coneflower:
And then the pinks roll in:
When the pinks thrive, the peonies and poppies bloom and the wisteria and false indigo share their violet hues:
The end of June and through July are the most prolific flowering times. Every day there’s a new bloom and discovery:
Last summer, Dick put up a new fence to replace the space where we stacked stove wood. The new fence provides a great backing for some taller plants such as Hollyhock, which I envied for years growing along a former neighbor’s house. I put in four plants last year and although they are supposed to be biennials, they popped up beautifully again this year. And the colors:
By far my favorite flower ever is the Delphinium and we are lucky to have a few different varieties:
This year we bought two Mandevilla vines for either side of the gazebo and secured the trailing vines to the ground with tent stakes and twine. It has been a pleasure to watch them grow:
Last, but not least, are the Morning Glories. I plant them from seed every year even though some always pop up from years prior. I always mix up the varieties, so I’m constantly surprised and delighted when a new coloration blooms:
They trail along the new fence:
And I set up a twine trellis for them to create a little nook on the front deck:
Bright and beautiful until the sun passes by when they curl up and withdraw into themselves:
All around the yard are the perennials that provide the ongoing color throughout the summer:
So, let me ask you this: If we are asked to stay home and keep our physical distance from others, is it the worst thing? Not at all. Can we take this time at home to appreciate everything already happening in nature around us? We sure can. Can we add to it in a way that creates beauty and in turn nurtures our souls and our joy? Without a doubt. Let me leave you with this –
As the Hydrangea pinkens with the coming of cooler nights and the end of summer, I know the Monkshood flower is just thinking about making an appearance, usually not until October, the final bloom of the year. Of course, by the time it blooms, the trees will have filled with fall color, and the purple of the Monkshood will find its complement in the golden hues all around:
You have the best flowers, so much color!
Wonderfully described thru words and photos, Alice!