Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meanwhile back at this farm...

I was invited to attend a performance by the Brandywine Baroque Ensemble at The Barn at Flintwoods. This forty acre farm sits among the rolling hills outside of Wilmington Delaware. The performance featured French and English music spanning 1640's until 1760's themed on the Birds, Bees and other Beasties. A marvelous concert featuring period instruments and impeccable singing. For me it was the first time there and a thrill to hear wonderful music, but my heart was outside in the countryside where this wonderful landscape was still asleep waiting for its soon awakening.

Meanwhile, back at my farm not even an hour north of Wilmington, that which had not occurred there was Spring in bloom. I suspect that even suburban environments are affected by the heat island effects that causes cities to remain warmer and thereby bloom earlier than their neighboring rural unimproved countryside. My garden has been flushed will all kinds of wonderful blooms.

The crocus have had their fleeting moment in the sun. They have managed to survive in the carpet of liriope that blankets them all year and surprise me every spring. I keep thinking that they will perish from lack of exposure and they endure and multiply. This year there were more crocus than ever.

A plant that I got to know in the east coast are the hellebores or Lenten Rose. These unusual evergreens have laid claim to a corner of my front yard where they have conquered and multiply. I have purchased additional varieties over the years and added them in various corner of my wooded garden. All you do is put them in the ground wait and over time the rewards are better and better. Mine (don't know any species names) bloom for a month or two and add a great dash of color and texture to the awakening landscape.

I have not done much in the back yet (nor for that matter anywhere). I have spoken to people who have pruned their roses prematurely only to have them bud and perish in the frosts that we are still getting. I look at the damage from the long winter and have picked some debris. Somewhere along the torrential downpours my garden lights are out and I can't figure out what has happened. No electricity for the pond either but thankfully the water will not ice up anymore. I was poking around trying to figure out what could have shorted the entire circuit and opened up one of my garden lights to find it filled up with soil. Apparently ants have found my garden lights to be skyscraper housing condominiums and may have caused the problem bringing up soil and or eggs into the lights when the garden has flooded. Only time will tell the answer to this little situation.

The forsythia and the other yellows have laid claim to the garden. Assortments of full size and miniature daffodils are sprinkled throughout the garden by the hundreds. It is wonderful to walk among their fragrance. They seem immune to the cold and the rain. In spite of major downpours the still manage to bounce back

Miniature daffodil amongst the Cranesbill geranium

The spectacle of the garden, at least for me, is the Star Magnolia whose fleeting blooms like most of the other spring flowers are so short lived. For the week they are in bloom it is like a ballet of white with the dancing petals swaying in the breeze. This shrub, that is now 15 feet tall reminds me of the wonder of it all. Ten years ago I planted a, barely, one foot tall plant that now screens the garden from my neighbors and provides a ballet to boot. Hope your farm or garden is in bloom and you rediscover the wonder of spring.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You can't always get what you want...maybe you get what you need.

photo by Geoffrey Robinson

I almost got one! Yes, last week I was interviewed for a Rescue Dalmatian. The one that I had hoped to get was already gone, but I knew that it would have to be based on more than a picture. Animals, like people fall in love with one another. There are chemical reactions that take place and a mutt in a cage suddenly becomes your next pal for life.

What I will get I don't know. I want a two-year-old female but you never know what will fit when you set out to discover a rescue kennel. Taxi came from a shelter when she was about 6 months old. My then partner, wanted to buy a pet and I insisted we get a rescue pup. The shelter we visited was filled to capacity with every manner of beast all barking except for one. In a kennel was this little Dalmatian afraid of the world around her and quite still in all that raucous. We both looked at each other and immediately thought the same thing about her. Our relationship unfortunately ended and I kept Taxi whose loyalty and love would last thirteen years and continues to endure.

I will tell you that this Rescue group of people want to find homes for their Dals. They responded to me in a professional and timely manner and after they got to know me better they broke the news to me that the one I wanted was gone, but unfortunately, thanks to the cruelty of man towards beast they had another bunch coming in from which I could choose.

I am always amazed by how cruel some people can be. It amazes me what they do to children and wonder how it is that people are not licensed to have children much less animals. The reality is that some of our a species are in need of major improvement all around.

The people I spoke with explained their concerns in placing the animals and the checks that they do to ensure that, hopefully, this time around, the beast is placed in a balanced and caring home. Don't think I use the term beast in a derogatory manner; on the contrary, I use it out of affection and acknowledgment of our role as shepherds of beasts and stewards of land.

In the past I have been upset because certain rescue groups, instead of doing their jobs to investigate people they create artificial boundaries and segregate people from outside that boundary from adopting animals. This has happened to me a few times, and I still see the animals listed on Petfinder because of ill conceived organizational policies. A lawyer friend of mine explained that some organizations don't like to loose jurisdiction of an animal when it leaves a State. You must understand that a policy like that can work in California where you can drive for ten hours and be in the same state, but here in the East Coast ten hours gets me to Florida. I won't belabor it; policies need to make sense.

Yet at the same time that I say all this about policies you wonder what makes a person throw small Dalmatian pups in a dumpster for others to luckily rescue. I have a policy for anyone that would do that. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what it is.

After months of snow and some torrential downpours, Spring has returned. Plants are running the marathon to see which one will claim more territory. The first of the daffodils have appeared soon to be followed by hundreds more. After a two year absence and with any luck, I will soon bring home a new master to the garden to lay claim over all the other beasts that frequent it and protect the Kois in the pond. Whether a boy or a gal it will be a Dalmatian. I don't know what it is, I guess it was just love at first sight.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time Passes

Sometime, not too long ago I headed back to California to visit friends and to see if the fork in the road had been different what my life would be like. Of course, this is sheer nonsense, but sometimes, you indulge fantasies. I dragged old disco-day friends to one of my favorite spots in the planet (if you haven’t gathered by now I have a few): Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco. What is incredible is that it looks the same but all of us don’t. Somehow, this is the magic of geologic time. Twenty five years pass and it all looks better; meanwhile, the visitors…well let’s just say we have earned our stripes.

I guess, I have started thinking that it is almost a year since I started writing this blog. I don’t know if I have accomplished anything other than further indulging fantasies, but of course there are great hopes to impart wisdom, humor or something in between in a task such as this. Over three thousand people have managed to discover the site; a few have seen fit to follow it. But to put it into context, and that is always a good thing in life, over 75,000-100,000 hits will appear on any mediocre porno site in a day! So maybe we should not kid ourselves about reaching the world with a meaningful message.

I will tell you that this year has been extraordinary for me. I have been able to think, speculate, lay out new plans and thoroughly enjoy an aspect of living that I have missed for a long time. I have been searching for a way to re-integrate myself into a workforce that may not really want a 58 year old man. Still, I persist and feel quite capable of surmounting even the most daunting obstacles because I have faith in myself.

I am not a religious person and in fact I am an atheist, but I believe in my fellow man and his ability to be great. Recently, I did what I never thought possible; I joined a group of people that I consider to be exceptional for their beliefs and tolerance. I have joined the Unitarian Universalist Community. Others would refer to it as a Church, but I don’t. I don’t like the word and will not associate one with another and they know it. I am not as alone as I thought I was. There are others just as independent and free thinking as myself.

Why, am I telling all of this? I don’t know. Time passes. One day you think the snow that has been accumulating for months will remain forever and then it melts. One year follows another so easily and you forget how they are strung together. Not that long ago you were a kid escaping and authoritarian regime, the next moment you are dancing feverishly in a disco while your heart is pumping to the amyl you inhaled, the next moment you are contemplating it all on a blog… So, almost Happy Anniversary to myself.

It has been a wonderful year and the garden has certainly kept my spirits afloat in times that might have been less than supportive. I hope that I have imparted some bits of wisdom and garden knowledge. I have enjoyed writing on a lot of subjects and garden practices and keep discovering new ones to tempt me.

If there is one thing I regret is not having taken this year to raise a wonderful new pooch. I miss my Taxi a lot. I never realized that this transition would last this long…Ha Ha...Another surprise! So I am going down this primrose path again. I am throwing caution to the wind. I am actively seeking to find another Dalmatian. Another recent potential adoption fell by the wayside as the 4 year old pooch was probably crazier than me and bit people. So I decided to forgo that process and find something a little safer. If you are in my neck of the woods (there some around me!) and know of someone wanting to find a home for a Dalmatian please let me know. I can assure you it will be loved.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Passport to the World

The theme for this year's Philadelphia Flower Show is Passport to the world. It is a nice handle to showcase talent. The central feature has multiple elements of dramatic effect and world significance. A balloon covered in over 30,000 roses and hydrangea flowers looms over the hall and reminds one of the film Around the World in 80 days. A lagoon at its base showcases Victoria Regina Water Lily whose leaves can grow 9 feet across in the South American tropics. Nearby, in another part of the massive central display, a pagoda with a created Cymbidium Orchid tree shows the magic of florists. There are six Showcase gardens displaying other countries. Our task was to judge these six gardens. Best in Show went to an Exhibit showcasing South Africa. Here florist have created a marvelous village, with animals, minerals, masks and everything you could think off and then some. Enjoy.

Victoria Regina Water Lily grown at Longwood Garden specially for the show. Water in the pond has to be maintained around 78 degrees for the plant to thrive.

Part of central display: Pagoda filled with cymbidiums attached to branches and placed on a bed of mosses and succulents

India displays a wedding garden with a ceremonial (Spanish Moss) elephant

An Indian floral wedding fountain

Brazil features a bromeliad rain forest garden with carnation flamingos and a croc

How is the croc is eating a feathered flamingo when all they had were carnation flavored?

Award of Distinction: Holland displays its canals and bikes and a few tulips to boot!

Here is the inside of the Holland florist shop

Best in Show: South African village with tribal costumes

Cymbidium colored giraffe part of the South Africa display

South African vignette showing native plants, and a few not so real diamonds

Clever florist display with hundreds of vials each with separate floral display that created quite a floating garden effect

Based on celebrated Landscape Architect, Roberto Burle Marx home, this elegant garden room has won much praise by a new presenter
A series of rusting ship containers are stacked and decorated as though it were a recycled home dining room
There are several winter fantasies. This one has the most creative white garden in years

Calla Lilies float in vases as though encased in ice blocks

A masterful further display of calla lilies dripped with wax as though frozen

The show is immense: Roughly 8 acres of displays and a marketplace to shop for your fantasy garden supplies and plants. I have only shown you a brief glimpse of what is there. There are many club displays, specialty displays with everything from floral watercolors to drawings made from flowers. There a miniatures, vignettes, flower arrangements, bonsais, every plant group and specialty imaginable. The local universities and trade schools have each taken an approach at displaying and educational concept. Then there are thousands of plants of every category that vie for blue ribbons and the like. It is not to be missed if you are in the area.

I have hosted friends from England who I thought had seen everything at Kew and at Chelsea and to my surprise they were most impressed with our local show and said that it was no comparison. So there you have it. Spring is here!

p.s. The theme for 2011 will be Springtime in Paris