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


Brenda said...

Oh, Sky. Even with a cool, wet Spring your garden is lush and the flowers gorgeous. I am enamoured of your garden! As you appear, in your superbly written post, bearing your flowers, you've brightened my day considerably. We've had so much rain here, real downpours almost daily, and so little sun and I'm missing what is usually a hot and humid month.

Thank you for your long and insightful comment full of questions that are important since we're shaped especially by our experiences in childhood and I will respond soon.

big hugs on this Midsummer's Night's Eve! From the Writer's Almanac today, "Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees."

It is the language of flowers that you understand and which speak through you, dear Sky.

rdl said...

absolutely gorgeous!!
i know we had the same weird spring here in new england; 50 degree drop - from 90 to 40 in no time.

mm said...

And you've brightened my day too, Sky. Your knowledge and love of plants is infectious and inspirational to me, a novice gardener. (I particularly like here the description of begonias in shady areas "an understory to ferns". And I'm glad you were able to rescue your irises.)

I hope the summer will be balmy and warm for you both.

I'll be returning to revisit at greater length. Thank you for starting my day so well.

Tammy said...

Sky! It's always great to read you and enjoy your garden. I'm working on my spring garden post too.

Our begonias did not look like they would make it but we now have big green leaves.

The previous owners were gardeners so everyday we get a surprise of a ne lily or iris. Hope you are feeling well. HUG

♥nova-san said...

It went from cold to unbearably hot seemingly overnight, and it hasn't looked back. Well, it has cooled down a bit to comfortable temperatures in the 80s.

I can't wait to visit Washington!

Tabor said...

Like England you area is perfect for gardening. I am so envious. In the spring I was fighting deer and rabbits. Now I have an invasion of Japanese beetles...but they finally are moving on. Our spring was lovely and long, which was a gift itself.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Sandy from gardenpath. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your's is very lovely, and I will be back to look and read.

We are not getting much sun these days in the northeast, either. Very strange weather we are having!

MB said...

Such beautiful flowers (and photographs)! I've never seen a Black Barlow Columbine before -- fascinating. Our spring was unusually cool also, but not anymore!

Suzann said...

Sky - what a beautiful post - your garden is astounding. The pacific northwest is a magically beautiful place - thank you for sharing it with us. Hugs across the miles - my sister, my heart. Suzann

Corinna said...

Sky, your irisses are wonderful. That's such a great combination of colours.
Do you often have these cool springs or is this just your typical weather?

Patry Francis said...

I'm so glad that you posted these. It wouldn't be spring without a visit to Sky's garden!

Kati said...

gorgeous photos! We've been lucky to have lots of rain so far and our gardens are loving it...even my faint little start at one here in my new home!