Opening the Gate

Still round the corner there may wait
a new road or a secret gate.  ~Tolkein

gatefromdeckWPLast weekend, I opened my garden gate to a class from The Phipps, who came to see what a garden might look like in September. The weather was perfect, with mild temperatures, blue skies, and a soft breeze. Poodle pup Angel Eyes was a friendly greeter and my husband played guitar on the deck so that there was live music in the garden.

I love my garden every day and month of the year, and September is usually a lush and colorful display of flowers and foliage, so I readily agreed to open the gates to visitors close to the autumn equinox. Little did I know that, when I agreed to do this, the lower garden reconstruction would take place in late June instead of April and the wooden deck refinishing would be delayed until July. If you’ve lived through a home construction project, perhaps you understand the chaos and domino effect that even a small project creates. Nevertheless, I undertook additional tasks in the garden to make it visitor ready by September and though I was still tweaking things the morning of the tour, it made a good impression.

Still, when preparing for garden visitors, the gardener only sees what they haven’t done – our imagination sees what project we left unfinished, what flowers aren’t in bloom, what weeds we forgot to pull, instead of what is actually there. Fortunately, garden visitors only sees what is before them, unburdened by expectations, and hopefully will enjoy the experience. I took no photos of the garden until the next morning, when I could look at it with fresh eyes and let the camera tell the tale. There are so many photos that I’ll limit them to the lower garden this time, and show the remainder in my next post. I hope you enjoy your virtual trip through the September garden! (Click any photo to view a full size image; all photos @2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

 

I could happily lean on a gate all the livelong day, chatting to passers-by about the wind and the rain. I do a lot of gate-leaning while I am supposed to be gardening; instead of hoeing, I lean on the gate, stare at the vegetable beds and ponder. ~ Tom Hodgkinson (British author)

See (and listen to)  last year’s take on September in the garden at September Song, a song that runs through my head at this time of the year.

Nature’s Sarabande

Sarabande – A Baroque dance that is said to have come from the Saracens. It is in triple meter, and characteristically the second note of the measure is lengthened, giving the dance a stately, majestic flavor. ~ Artopium

 

Rudbeckia trilobaThe slow stately dance of summer moving into autumn has begun. Days are growing shorter and nights are growing cooler. Where ten new flowers opened in giddy excess each day in June and July, perhaps one begins flowering every few days in August and September. Change is slow but inexorable, a measured graceful prelude to the fiery finale of autumn’s peak. The soft pinks and lavenders of tall phlox keep the butterflies hovering in their midst; the shocking gold and black of Rudbeckias sing in a harmony of color to the fuzzy bees that crowd around them for late season sustenance. Cooler evenings have triggered rose bloom in every color from magenta to pink to apricot – blue Ageratum and Salvias play a cool counterpoint to the warm tones of rose buds and blossoms as they shift in the slanted sun rays to gather the light. Huge trusses of cream colored hydrangeas hang over the garden paths, richly scented and alive with the bumbling movement of pollinators drunk on their sweet largesse. Even as some plants begin to crumble and fall toward dormancy, others rise up with fresh foliage and flowers for a brief coda of glory before the end of the season.

The August GardenUnderneath the visual feast lies the ostinato drone of cicadas and the antiphonal call of tree frogs at night. A few days ago, after a long day in the hot and noisy city, I returned home and stepped outside into the garden – I suddenly felt as if I were Alice stepping through the looking glass. Heat that was oppressive in the city was merely a warm envelope of air in the garden and the early evening chorus of insects and frogs created a symphonic hall of pulsing sound that replaced the chaotic screech and scratch of traffic and construction. I stood entranced for a moment, watching the bats fly overhead in search of mosquitoes. I looked down to see the twinkle of fireflies rising from the garden floor, in search of a mate to commence the pas de deux of partnership. I had not just stepped into a garden, I had stepped into a magical world, a space where I was privileged to see and hear and smell the intoxication of nature in late summer, performing her multi-dimensional dance of life. Humbled and at peace, I began a slow sarabande through the garden.

But I’m not dancing alone . . . I’m dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon. Kenge, The Forest People (Turnbull)

Listen to Handel’s famous sarabande (trigger the video below) as you view a few garden photos from the August garden. Click on any image to start the show and join me in the “stately, majestic” dance. (All photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.” ~Maya Angelou

For a unique perspective on solo dance and the current phenomenon of recording and sharing one’s dance experience, visit Richard Coyne’s post on Mood and Movement (and dance).

 

Golden Days Ahead

One golden day redeems a weary year. ~Celia Thaxter

Weeping cherry leavesIt’s not often that turning the calendar page corresponds to a change in the garden. This August, the page and the garden turned in sync. Mild days and cool nights have ushered in a subtle change and earth’s spin towards the equinox has pulled the sun lower in the sky. Most of the July bloomers like daylilies have finished their show and the bloom palette has shifted to golden Rudbeckias and cherry red Echinaceas. Bees and butterflies abound, greedy for the late summer bounty, and the cicadas and tree frogs have begun their August serenade. In anticipation of autumn, the weeping cherry in the center of the garden has begun to turn into a golden fountain of foliage – perhaps it is just trying to compete with the golden flowers circling around it. In another month or two, the woods surrounding the garden will glow in autumn colors. For now, though, there is just a hint of the golden days to come.

Enjoy a few scenes from the garden as it shifts to gold, a fitting celebration of my 100th blog post as Composer in the Garden. (Click on any photo to begin the slideshow. All photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

The golden age is before us, not behind us. ~Shakespeare

For a different kind of gold in the garden, visit Ogee’s wonderful blog Gardens for Goldens.

The Joys of July

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James

Poodle playFor those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, July is the peak month of summer. Warm dawns are filled with birdsong punctuating a breathless silence, gardens  flourish with flowers and produce, evenings are balmy enough for shorts and sandals. “Lazy” is the way to spend a summer afternoon. For me, July is also filled with family birthdays, including my own, daily dabbling in the garden, and a tradition of watching the Tour de France. This year, Angel’s buddy Charlie Brown spent a week’s vacation with us, a time for exuberant play for these best friends.

There always seems time enough to watch a spider web floating in the breeze or to track winged creatures flitting through the garden – sometimes they land on my hand as if to say “Isn’t summer grand?” I often retreat from the heat of the afternoon into the cool of the house, watching cyclists at the peak of their powers race their way through the breathtaking scenery of the French countryside. Rainy days are spent at the piano, workinWine for weedingg on new pieces to the rhythm of water falling through the woods and garden and the percussion of distant thunder. Most days end with another tour de jardin, seeing what the morning’s efforts accomplished and perhaps to spend a leisurely hour pulling the odd weed while sipping a bit of cool wine.

Here’s to the joys of July, days and nights of sensory delights to hold and treasure in memory for the rest of the year. Enjoy a few scenes of the denizens of the summer garden. (click any photo below to trigger the slide show; all photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, all rights reserved)

My life, I realize suddenly, is July. Childhood is June, and old age is August, but here it is July, and my life, this year, is July inside of July. ~Rick Bass

 

The Big Picture

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are. ~Alfred Austin

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas, 2013

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas, 2013

I haven’t photographed with a wide angle lens in my garden for many seasons. The crisp circular pattern of paths that originally defined the shape and structure of the garden declined over the years, shifting under the influence of weather, gravity, and life’s unexpected challenges. Last summer’s heavy rainfalls rendered the paths unusable at the lowest point of the garden and moisture loving plants – Hydrangea, daylilies, Lobelia - quickly colonized the rich muck. Perhaps you remember a post from last year, That Particular One, where all of my garden photos focused on the details of flowers, excluding the messy bigger picture.

But this week, the wide angle lens went back onto the camera and I celebrated the renewed structure and shape of the garden on the completion of the rebuilt paths. Determined to reclaim my horticultural territory, I hired a local company, Best Feeds Outdoor Design, to dig out the dirt of the paths, add edging and drainage, and fill with various layers of gravel. Muscular men dug and removed cubic yards of soil and wheeled in barrels of stone in extremely hot and humid weather, a job I had unrealistically expected to accomplish myself until I came to my senses.

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Now, the original shape of the garden I designed from the upper deck looking down has been restored, and not only has the appearance of the garden changed dramatically, it is a pleasure to walk through it.

circlesVertWP

Garden and woodland

Since most of my free time is spent in the garden, I often tend to see it as a metaphor for my life and this newest development was no exception. What struck me immediately as I meandered through the paths was how different the garden looked and felt, even though the same plants were in the same place – all the beauty of blossom and leaf remained but were framed in a very different way. Restoring a firm structure made them appear more beautiful than before, like adding a frame to a painting to add definition and draw the eye. What had become a chaotic ramble among lovely plants is now beauty contained in a pleasing form, a balance between strong lines and cascades of color. The wild woodlands surrounding the garden now seem even more mysterious and primeval in contrast to the firm human hand of design and form.

This shift in perception has made me consider the desirability for clearer boundaries in my own artistic life, perhaps finding a better balance between daily structure and creative abandon. I’m beginning to turn a wide angle lens on my life, looking for balance and beauty in the big picture.

Enjoy some images of the restored garden; click on any photo to start the slide show. (All images ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse).

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” ~ Michael Pollen