Thursday, June 12, 2008

That Yellow Balm Called Sunshine

Ocelot Bearded Iris

It was the coldest spring of my life. Well, except for that Saturday in May when it shot up to 95 degrees and burned the buds of our bearded irises after it burned my face. Spring flowers do not thrive in temperatures that high. We were all stunned here in western Washington. After that day it was cold enough for shawls and sweaters, and if you are especially cold-natured like my husband you wore your winter jacket most days and nights. The positive side of a cool spring is that the flowers stay on the stems longer and the colors are more vibrant. The negative side is that the plants don't grow quite as large and everything blooms more slowly. If you add in the heavy rains we had in early June you can expect some plant and stem damage. The weight of the rain falling on large flower heads often bends the stems to the ground. As a result, our bearded irises quite often fell flat. I rescued several stems which still bring golden yellows and purples inside the house in a bouquet mixed with canary yarrow. I missed seeing all the irises open together this year in their expansive wash of color in different corners of the gardens. There was no spectacular show of tall stems bursting into color along the walkway. We have waited a full year to see the various colors of the new irises we bought in Oregon last summer. We are still waiting for many to open.

I had wondered if the tuberous begonias we planted would rot before they could rise above the soil line. These are lovely in shady areas as an understory to ferns. They were impossible for me to grow in the hot, humid weather of Atlanta, so it is a treat to live in an environment well suited to these beautiful flowers. In the woodland gardens the mauve California mallow has opened her petals and is thriving in her new home. We found her near Schoolhouse Beach along the northern California coast and decided to bring her back to the Pacific NW where she lives happily among new friends: ligularia, hydrangeas, and hardy amaryllis and orchids.

Having worked in the chilled spring air for several weekends puzzle-piecing flagstone into a pathway through the woodland gardens, we recently decided to take a summer's day break on a sunny June afternoon. We traveled by ferry along Puget Sound to a couple of islands dotting the waterway. The sun warmed our shoulders as we traveled southwest down narrow, rural lanes exploring unfamiliar territory. We revisited Seabeck Harbor along Hood Canal, a beautiful old milling village which was once a vibrant seaport. Little is left but a conference center and a couple of community stores. Homes, many in the several million dollar range, are now perched above the shoreline overlooking the Olympic Mountains, the majestic backdrop to the salty, lapping water of the Sound. This place is one of my favorites of the western Washington shoreline. Scattered sunlight formed a haze across the horizon where mountains meet sky, draping the Olympics in a film that forbade sharp, clear photography. The truth of this astounding beauty would have to be told another day. As we ferried out to yet another island we saw seals, sunning lazily on bright red buoys, reminding us that sunshine, in correct proportion, can be a healing balm for most living things. We turned our faces to the warm air and headed into our next discovery.

The Spring Garden

Click on each photograph to enlarge.
All photographs are from our personal collection
and may not be displayed or used in any manner without our written permission.
Collage above from left to right on each row:
Blue Sky Columbine, Lavender Rhododendron,
Black Barlow Columbine, Sappho Rododendron,
Key Largo Rose, Purple Sensation Alliums,
Darcy's Choice Bearded Iris, Midas Touch Rose