Stories For My Children

what i was trying to say is this: there are days, more than you can imagine, where knowing the guitar is there makes the struggle lift away. some struggles i embrace but not the grind and not the heartbreak...having this thing i can depend on that is free of any other obstacle, and boy are there plenty for all of us.

there are no bolded words, no titles, no subheadings, no hierarchy here. each word depends on the other. each word, even the smallest, matters.

so i believe some people need this strong creative focus on self to be happy. i suspect you are like this. it is a long road and we should be grateful for the journey. pick something that is creative or maybe let it pick you. something you can love and commit to.

and then don't ever think again how good or not good you are. just do the thing, as often as you can, and give yourself to it. dogs live in the moment with no thought of past or future and we should do the same when it comes to most things, especially what we give our hearts to. yet another thing to learn from dogs. Continue reading ‘David (Jeremy, Flynne, Ian)’

daughter, do you believe the prairies art?
a horizon expanding.

they mourn the death of Venice

but i do not.
all kings fall,
but the people will remain,

a sea, a plain
to the horizon, treeless.
and the grasses and the wind
are the things i love.

there is only one you.
only ever be one you.
never before. never after.


See also: Herbaceous Perennials, Native Plants
It's December, which means time to write. One of the first essays I wrote on the subject of perennial gardening was this brief introduction to purple coneflower. Landscape architects and native plant specialists may gravitate to the less often seen pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida), but it says something about a plant when it is instantly recognizable from coast to coast. From childhood onward we know purple coneflower in the American landscape.

purple coneflower summer garden

Echinacea purpurea

One of the things I noticed this past year about purple coneflower in our own gardens is how little I thought about it when it came to fertilizing, pruning, watering, staking, and on and on. So many of our garden plants seem to exist to give us something to do. Once established, purple coneflower is reliable for both us and the goldfinches, and all we have to do is show up.

See also: Garden Roses, Perle d'Or
Buff Beauty is a favorite old rose and can be grown as a short climber or as a shrub rose. It is a Hybrid musk introduced in 1939 in the United Kingdom by Ann Bentall. I ponder what it must have felt like to introduce such a beautiful garden rose and then live through the terrible years that followed.

Buff Beauty garden rose

Buff Beauty hybrid musk garden rose. Click for larger.

Ann Bentall was married to John Bentall, and both were assistants to the Reverend Joseph Pemberton, a legendary rose hybridizer of the early 20th century. Joseph Pemberton created a class of roses, the hybrid musks. He introduced roses still grown today, such as Penelope, Robin Hood, and Danae. He is often credited with introducing Buff Beauty, but the cultivar was introduced in 1939, thirteen years after his death.

Continue reading ‘Rosa Buff Beauty & Time’

Baptisia australis (blue false indigo), like all of the false indigo, is easy to grow, drought tolerant, hardy across a huge swath of the U.S., and attractive to bees and butterflies. More, it is a native perennial.

I cannot fathom how many photographs I have taken of blue false indigo. It is a favorite plant and somehow the images never measure up. Today, my children Flynne and Ian were behind me, clamoring for a picture of a bee, never mind the Baptisia.

Finally, I took a good photograph of blue false indigo by taking a picture of a bee for my children.

blue false indigo

Blue false indigo in detail + bee. Click for larger.

Continue reading ‘Baptisia australis – Blue False Indigo’

Looking like a character straight from the pages of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the man appeared, singular and alone, along with a reputation of coming from the great southern heritage of independent thinkers and individualists. He sprayed some water, called a dog, and then he was gone.

His name is Ryan Gainey and we are in his garden, invited but not necessarily welcome.

ryan gainey

Entrance to Ryan Gainey's garden.

I became aware of Ryan Gainey because I kept bringing home plants named after him. First there was Ryan's Daisy, and then later a Ryan Gainey hydrangea. When I told him I had cut the hydrangea to 6" after the first year to lessen the shock of transplanting Mr. Gainey looked horrified.

Anyway, I did some research and discovered Ryan Gainey is a long-respected garden designer and writer with a reputation for a strong design aesthetic and directness. He is a self-admitted product of the agrarian Old South, Clemson University, and the U.S. Navy. He is clearly very intelligent, well-read, and a talented narrator of cultural histories. Mr. Gainey's description of fig trees is the best I have ever heard...about any plant.

Continue reading ‘Ryan Gainey’s Garden’

Rare in my garden are annuals, their uniform sameness unrelenting through summer. The common garden poppy (Papavar somniferum) is an annual and is welcome any time.

Papavar somniferum

Papavar somniferum - Among the most beautiful of spring annuals. Click for larger.

poppies garden

Common garden poppy flower detail. Click for larger.

Growing poppies is simple and easy. Direct sow seed in the garden in a sunny place as soon as any danger of snow is past. In places without snow anytime fall through March is fine. Don't plant poppy seeds deeply or cover with soil. A light pressing to ensure contact with the ground is enough, should you care to bother with it. In nature poppies are not dependent on humans to do anything after all.

Continue reading ‘Common Garden Poppy (Papavar somniferum) – Southern Gothic’

See also: Native Plants
There is no finer large shade tree for the American garden than Liriodendron tulipifera. Native to vast tracts of eastern North America, Liriodendron tulipifera is the largest growing hardwood east of the Mississippi River.

Tulip tree gets big, so you need space in the garden to accommodate it.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower. Click for larger.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower plus leaf detail. Click for larger.

Known widely as tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera is also called tulip tree, yellow poplar, and my favorite, fiddle tree. Liriodendron tulipifera is not a true poplar, but part of the magnolia family. The 'tulip' refers not to the flowers, but to the shape of the leaves, which are said to resemble tulips (I don't see it).

Continue reading ‘Tulip Poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera’

See also: Native Plants
Calycanthus floridus (Eastern sweetshrub or Carolina allspice) is native to most of the eastern United States. Most gardeners I know call it sweetshrub.

I was seventeen the first time the fragrance of Calycanthus floridus hit me. I consider this event one of the best memories of my gardening life. They say the memory of scent lasts a long time, and I reckon it is true.

Calycanthus floridus - Carolina allspice

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus). Click for larger.

It makes me happy this memory is written down somewhere, a moment known by nobody but you who read these words. If those who come after know only that I loved my children and the smell of sweetshrub they will know the most important parts.

Enough about me. Let's get on with it.

Continue reading ‘Sweetshrub (Carolina Allspice) – Calycanthus floridus’

See also: Herbaceous Perennials
Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) is a highly adaptable and easy to grow perennial that needs sun to flower at its best. It is hard to resist the impeccable clarity and tone of the flowers. In a world where yellow flowers inhabit the landscape in all seasons, yellow flag iris is one of the finest in the land. It is also considered highly invasive in some parts.

yellow flag iris

Yellow flag iris - Iris pseudacorus. Click for larger.

Many gardeners drop the 'iris' from the name and merely refer to Iris pseudacorus as 'yellow flag'. The first time I remember seeing yellow flag iris was at the edge of a small lake: a dense colony eight feet across with those pure yellow flowers held aloft like a king's banner.

Continue reading ‘Yellow Flag Iris & What We (Don’t) Know About Climate Change’