The week prior has been cold and rainy and generally miserable, with temperatures a bit cooler than usual, which, considering Spring started with WARMER than normal temperatures around here, that had perennials and bulbs frantically trying to keep up with the temperatures, was actually a welcome change. With all the conflicting signals around here, I started out wearing shorts and tank tops, opening windows, taking out all the houseplants and cacti and succulents, and getting things settled for the three seasons they'd be exposed to.
Then I started closing windows and screens on doors about two weeks ago, the furnace kicked back on with night temperatures of low 40's F. and highs barely in the lower 60's F most days. Some even not breaking 60o F. Back to tee shirts and blue jeans and shoes with socks....................
The deficit in rain has long been eradicated, and I emptied the rain gauge almost every day. (it was raining when I started this!, lol). But all this rain has been a blessing to most of the gardens here in Fairy Holler and the surrounding countryside and towns. All the feeding lightning has nourished the leaves of everything that burst out early, to where there is almost a summer greenery to everything now. The tender greens of Spring have long been lost, and with exception to vines that still need time to toughen up (my Jackmanii clematis, for example), things have gone almost in a fast forward rate and pace.
I had to run do some important errands, and the day was cloudy, with brilliant splashes of intense blue sky that was in huge patches above me, white and gray and dirty cream colored clouds interspersed enough thru the blue to remind me the rains weren't through with me and everyone else yet.
I slipped the dawgs, leaving them with son in the Dragon den downstairs, and headed out. The air was warm enough with the filtered sunlight to give me excellent visibility, and I remembered my camera, "just in case" <g>. As I shot up the hill thru the stop sign at the bottom of my dead end road and climbed Wine Road, I noticed little patches of white gleaming from the roadsides. Then whole pastures of wild yellow buttercups like lakes of soft, sulphur yellow. I slowed down and rolled the window down, turning on the heat for my cold feet to compensate the cold air coming in, and took the visuals in. The puddles of white were wild white daisies. Dotting the edges of the roads, like little happy groups of tourists, they shouted out at me to look at them! The yellow centers all cheerful and the white petals on every one gleaming white.
At other intervals, I saw great clumps and wads of Cinquefoil thrusting their lemony yellow rounded daisy like flowers above hairy stems. The Cinquefoil is a different visual. I ALWAYS see them. And their yellow is completely different from that of the pastoral lakes of wild buttercups and sorrel. (Some patches that were taller turned out to be late wild mustard that was blooming).
With all the rains, the woods were glowing with something white. A LOT of white, as a matter of fact. As I tried to determine if this was blackberries, (it was, but not what I was seeing so much of) I finally pulled over to the opposite shoulder near the woods on the rise of Wine Road and got out and peered into the woods and saw a few fleeting hens scurrying deeper into the ridges of the woods that folded against each other. I looked closer and finally figured out what all the white was........PRIVET.
And as I got back into the van, and pulled back onto the road, I started noticing that ALL the privet was blooming. It was EVERYWHERE. How had I not noticed all this privet blooming? and not just the older shrubs and small trees of it wild in all the woods around here, but where people had deliberately planted it as "poor man's boxwood" around their houses and hadn't trimmed it into the shapes they cut them into yet thanks to all the rainy, cold weather we'd been having. Privet was blooming EVERYWHERE..........No wonder my sinuses were pissed off at me. I can't remember a time that this much privet has been blooming. (even small seedlings of it were blooming!)
The top of the ridge was quiet enough, that I heard the faint, half hearted peeps of some frogs in the mucky marshy ponds that are in my neighbor's upper pastures. All this rain seems to have quieted them up here at the top of the back hill that rises behind my own ridge. Other places where it's truly flooded, they chorus in throngs of joy and it confuses me. I think they;re just messing with me...LOL
I began to notice the uncut pastures that had grasses over two foot tall, and the intense blueness of the cornflowers dotting the grasses. And as exclamation points, blood red Flanders poppies dotting the grasses, drawing your eye towards their solitary statements.
The yards I passed slowly (no one behind me to be in a hurry to pass me or speed me up around all the hairpin curves and cow trails and horse trails that are what these roads once used to be decades ago) were showing small islands of irises. Bearded ones in every hue and coloration and combination. LOTS of blue flags. Everywhere.
My own irises had peaked and finished a few days prior, but had lasted a goodly time because of the colder temperatures. The only ones blooming in my raised beds now was a Louisiana iris that Zhanataya sent me years ago that acclimated that wows me (it has three more buds still!) and the last of the yellow pseudo-iris that Karol had me dig up two weeks ago that I tucked in with the Louisiana in the BBQ pit garden.
The familiar roads were now showing me they were gearing up for the end of Spring and first weeks before Summer temperatures hit them. I started seeing strappy colonies of ditch lilies, where farmers and pasture owners had attempted to kill the wild blackberries in their fence rows, I saw the dead clumps but I also saw their children that had slipped unscathed and filling out with flowers everywhere. And I also saw the wild white roses that this year were happier than I'd remembered seeing them. I had to stop to make sure they WERE wild roses and not blackberries....
And roses. Everywhere. Escaped pink ones that rambled along the edges of yards and ditches and across the faces of boulders where I didn't remember seeing them before (the slow crawl I was doing had a lot to do with it, I can imagine how neat it would be if I WALKED these roads......). Yellow's, deep reds, burgundies, blackish red ones. White ones, scalding hot pink, colors I knew roses came in, but with the cold, wet weather, the roses were triumphing and flourishing. A good spring for roses here this year. I admire them, I don't grow them myself.
And the honeysuckle. EVERYWHERE the sweet, intoxicating smells of honeysuckle poured thickly into the open window to wrap it's sweet aroma around my head and shove up my nose and tempt my mouth with memories of the miniscule droplets of nectar I used to try and capture from each blossom. I love the smell, I love the flowers, I despise how tenacious and strangling the vines are. My own woods are filled with it to the point I fear it will reach inside the window's and snatch me out of my bed and fling me to the waiting tendrils of Vinca and be smothered.....LOL
The roads kept revealing themselves, with the sharp notes of the Eastern Tennessee Bluebirds cutting thru the revere I had slipped into, and as I approached more traffic'd area's, I saw more and more puddles of white daisies, more Cinquefoil, more lakes of buttercups. Interspersed with the Bluebird's melodious notes, Mockingbird songs. Lots and lots of Mockingbirds this year. More than I EVER remember seeing over here, but in the words of Miz Mary, there used to be way more Mockingbirds than there have been in the past. She even said that Niles Road used to be known by everyone as "Mockingbird Ridge" before they named our road after her daddy.
Some yards that I passed, I spotted Dames Rockets, in one area, Dames have jumped across the country road and reside in the ditch that rises up sharply to a steep slope and then levels out twelve feet above the road. The embankment literally glows that unmistakable purple of them. When the Dames are gone and seeding their daughters, daylilies will bloom, as do some blue flags that somehow meandered across the roadside as well.
My quick and learned eye spots the ethereal hot pink flowers of Heuchera's at the edges of some yards where true dabbling gardeners have planted them. And in little huddles, great masses of old fashioned peonies flopping about or girdled with sticks and twine depending on how old the gardener is who tends them. Mostly white ones, and some flowers so great and sodden with rains they bend the stems to the grounds. Pink ones and a few red's jump out at me in some rare yards as I drive down the familiar roads. More houses. More variations of plantings. Some common ones, some unusual.
Baskets out hanging on porches. Petunia's, and Boston Ferns. A blue flower that makes masses of little deep blue penstemon type flowers that the local grocery store got this year to sell and everyone has them hanging everywhere. The lady at the store called them the "Foxglove plant", but for a gardener like me, this annual needed a more real name to locate and there were of course no name tags in the pots........sigh.....
And with all this rain, I noticed once I got to town that the strawberries were in season. and lordy how sweet and flavorful they are........there's a local berry farm and this year again they're huge, sweet, smell strongly of strawberries so much your mouth waters when you get near where they are in the store or Farmer's Market. I should make jam this year....................I spot a sign that says "Raspberries will be here soon" and try and remember where I see the sign.....I don't have raspberries anymore. And I'd still love to locate the evil and thorny boysenberry to plant here in Fairy Holler. I know how to battle gall now that jumps off the wild blackberries....
The colors of the different trees are wowing me as well. There is a maple that blows my mind every time I see it. Huge great leaves of dark purplish colors. I'd LOVE to have one of these in my woods. Everywhere, the yards and median strips and "hell strips" along the sidewalks and parking lots are bursting with plants, shrubs and small trees in full leaf.
My drive back had me itching to get into Fairy Holler and take inventory of who was blooming. There are some new arrivals, and some magical ones intermingled with the regular residents.
As I crested the last hilltop of my neighborhood, I slowed to a stop and took in the mountains in their layers of misty, blue haze and the clouds that wrapped around them, heading eastwards. The sun was trying to peel the silky looking strips of moisture from the trees and hillsides, all to no avail, and the scene before me reminded me that every day it changes. I could barely make out the lines of each mountain ridge behind yet another ridge.
As I dropped down the road and took the last curve towards my own dead end, I slowed to allow some fleeing hens to run all silly and scatter brained into the open creased edge of my neighbor's pasture that flanks the west side of his farm and house. As I watched them running like silly fowl, I noticed someone else I hadn't suspected to be out this early........two deer, solemnly watching me as I slowly drove down the steep, sharply curving road thru the wooded area and into the open. As they truly saw my van, they bolted up to where the Jack pines rose to five story heights in the one area that hadn't been devastated by the pine beetles years back, and fled into the fallow area that the old farmer has let go now since he's quit pasturing cows.
I shot down the road and up my dead end, slowing and stopping to park and greet Barney, my neighbor's burro who is sadly in need of attention and some good ear scratches. Miz Mary isn't around to tend to his scratchings and talks now and it's up to me. I have another story about him and Sugar dawg to share with you later (along with the inventory of flower arrivals in Fairy Holler). He approached me and played his stand offish behavior and as I talked to him, he finally came to me at the barbwire's edge and he let me scratch his ears and between his eyes on his forehead. He loved it, and eventually he decided he'd had enough of me and ran off, voicing his opinions and showing his tempermentalness. I laughed at him and go back into the van and climbed the road, looking Southwards towards the opening between the woods and the rolling hills in front that let me see slivers of Douglas Lake and the Smokies and English Mountain. Not much of the Smokies, but a nice slice of Douglas Lake and a titch of English Mountain greeted me, and I drove up the steep dead end road to stop at the top at the mouth of the circular driveway and my gravel drive that curves around the north backside of Miz Mary's old farmhouse.
The emptiness of the house saddened me as I felt her absence, the zinnia's and marigolds she'd planted in the cast iron pot in the iron circle still blooming, despite the shading of the maple tree now. I miss her, and need to go visit her in the nursing home where she's probably going to spend the rest of her life. It makes me tear up when I think of it now. I park the van and get out and walk over to her Adirondack chairs and sit in one of them and look out across the way, towards those incredible mountain and the lake teasing at the bottom, and thank her for her kindness and hospitality and notice that all her blue flags are ramrod straight and in full bloom, with plenty of buds yet to go. The other patch of them along the side of the asphalt of our dead end road is still blooming from decades past that her grandmother grew, and mingled in with them, wild white daisies.
I sit and listen to the "tweedle tweedle tweedle" of some songbird that has made himself very vocally known here lately. He sings his song every early morning, and these gloomy overcast days. He then sings his "tweedle tweedle tweedle" in the early dusk hours before falling quiet, and as I listen to him and all the other birds, I rise and start back to my van parked at the pink Acacia trees that bloomed weeks ago and wowed me that Mary missed....and notice that the huge miscanthus ribbon grass returned for her off the driveway near a small boulder where she dumped it last year. She and I were going to check on it this year and divide it for me to have a small piece of.
Near this strange grass that is growing new shoots along the "dead" stems that she never got around to cutting back before her strokes and hospitalization, her clumps of irises are almost done, the old fashioned one with the dark purple falls and white standards still blooming, their heavy grape Nehi scent obvious in the still air, and I walked around the huge brush pile her yard man had not done anything with yet and noticed the brilliant glow of Dames. She has some from mine I gave her last year. And Money plants still blooming! And a bit further below the driveway that leads to my house and drops to the pasture below, a wild white rose that is loaded with buds about to burst. I have to check again to make sure it's not blackberry. Nope, it's the wild rose. And it's about to explode into flowers.
My fluffy tailless cat, Piquito spots me standing in the driveway next to the van and he runs like a rabbit down the driveway in anticipation. He does this whenever I leave. He seems to have taken up the gauntlet of waiting for us to return and hangs out at Mary's house, skulking around, catching whatever suits his fancy. He's done this since discovering that Whacky Dew no longer lives with Miz Mary. How would he know that the great Calico cat that used to belong to me is now buried in my woods in a large cedar stump? Whacky long had left my house to live with Mary before he joined the cat family.
I laugh at his rabbit like running, his seriously fluffy orange red puff ball body tearing down the driveway, and darting thru the bursting foliage of the Zebra grasses and Vinca that is swelling to disturbing proportions. I climb into the van and go down the remainder of the driveway, thru the gates and my eyes are filled with images of everything..............I'll fill you in tomorrow <gbseg>....the sounds of Sméagol yodeling and barking his excitement that "MAMA'S HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" cuts thru the closed door and I hear the creaking of the cat door in the living room window as first he and then Sugar pokes their head thru to see and smell and voice their excitement and aggravation that I LEFT them!! I will be assaulted by delirious dawgs happy and jumping and acting all foolish that I am finally home. Smeag will hit me with that curled night stick of his, Sugar will rise on her back legs to put her front paws on either side of my hips and "hug" me and as I bend to greet her, she'll ease up and nip my earlobes in her anxiety that I left her behind.
It's the way she greets me when I leave her behind. She holds herself back in her excitement that I've returned, but she has to let me know she wasn't happy that I left her. I don't very often, but as long as Mike is there for them to invade his bed space and take comfort with him and company, they're usually fine. They just go insane when I return.............it's nice to be dog loved so much. Sméagol is beside himself, grunting and chortling and making his hound sounds, Sugar is inhaling and making her noises as well, and hugs me. I glance over from the deranged dawgs and see Piquito standing off to the side all smug. The fat and waddly Polluxx is posing and acting very amused, all one-eyed and happy that Spring is here, he is nonchalant about my arrival until I walk up to the nook deck that son, Damon built for me last year for a late Mom's day present. Then he bolts off to the side and voices his greeting, holding his head all cocked to one side but quite adapted now to having lost the sight when he got struck by lightning last summer.
I look around me as the dogs take off to show off, pee and grapple with each other in their dog games and spot ol' Krusty the Kat.....Rose's kitty, Pester's who has a new protégée, Maggie, or Mags as I refer to her, or "Little Evil" as she's sometimes referred to. He adores her, and she adores him as well. They are partners in crime and cat passions. Racing and playing with each other. Their bonding was quite the surprise when she settled into the feline family.
Pest is lying at the edge of the nook deck, not stirring a whisker and I look for Maggie and spot her, behind him, below in the NSSG foliage, about to pounce. The manic movements of the dawgs hasn't deterred her stealth or intent, but as she is almost upon him, he rolls over, spots her (he knew she was there all along......LOL) and pounces on her, causing her to do one of those kitten maneuvers that make you laugh out loud. She twists herself, teleports to a spot opposite of where she once was and gives me a dirty look like I gave her position up to him. Then she forgets her aggrivation towards ME as Pest chases her thru the jungle and under the deck and that's it...........
I whistle for the dawgs, they immediately come (well, they mind wonderfully when I've been away from them, they want to please me, and Smeag ALWAYS comes when mama calls him! ) and as I open the new screen door that already has to be replaced thanks to another episode with 'Da BOY (Smeag) and seperation anxiety, I feel someone soft and silky brushing past me and look down to see Piquito has slid himself thru the legs of the two dogs, and mine like some greased and silky fat fairy, and he scoots around the corner and gallops down the hallway to slide to a stop, and sit on his fluffy butt, legs outstretched and looking like he'd been holding the hall wall up all along........I can't keep from laughing. He scatters when the dogs tromp past him and upset his composure. I'm home now and it's time to grab the digital camera and do some Fairy flower spotting...............
Thanks for your patience with me being gone all this time. I'll apologize for my absence, but I've been too distracted. Tomorrow I'll regale you with the stories of some awesome arrivals, textures to make you weep and grin and the tales of fairies that amaze even ME!
madgardener, up on the bursting and exploding ridge, back in a busy, busy Fairy Holler, overlooking a shrouded and cloudy English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36 (feels like Oregon!)