In the early weeks, exuberant, happy growth pours forth from the garden. (https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/the-garden-tour/)
By midsummer, a spectral reveal takes over: the yellows and oranges of the early lilies demur to the mauves and pinks of hydrangeas that, in their own time, bow to the deep, deep reds of the roses reaching their August peak. And, with every new bloom, a new stage unfolds for the tangos of bees and waltzes of butterflies. (https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/gods-kaleidoscope-garden-tour-midsummer/)
But the world must circle in its tilted scheme, and, slowly but surely, it turns away as the hostas begin to yellow, and in what seems like only a day, the Virginia creeper at the front is ablaze, and the time has come to say goodbye to another year’s display.
If anyone watched this deconstruction, they’d probably think me a little bit batty as I actually whisper my thanks to the petunias, geraniums and fan-flowers even as I break them off and deliver them to the deer outside where, as a final contribution, the tasty blossoms give themselves up to the ruminants who, for so long, have coveted them through our infuriating six foot fence. Then, done for the year, all the well-used, mossy pots are emptied into the same enormous planter from whence they were filled in the spring, before being stacked upside-down along a sheltering wall to await their next adventure.
Counting the extra “Day Lilies” post (https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/day-lilies/) which arose from the simple necessity of having more beauty to share than I could have possibly expected so soon after Sandy’s wrath – more than could be accommodated by these survey posts – this is the fourth and last of this year’s garden extravaganzas. I heard a quote the other day that was attributed to Siddhartha, but when looked it up, it turned out that he didn’t really say it. Nevertheless, I like the sentiment which, in my words, says: one who likes a flower may pick it, but one who loves a flower will water it. Well, dear friends, it has been my rare privilege to love and water this tiny ocean-side garden, and to share it with you.
As with the first two of these photo essays, this one is organized with the deck plantings first, then the shady side of our garden, followed by the sunny side (where you will also get a bonus photo of Richard pruning his Rose of Sharon archway). And, I have to say, between the Monarchs taking over the butterfly bushes and Montauk daisies at their most rampant, it’s Richard’s side – the sunny side – that really shines in this final round. We both hope you enjoy!
Finally, a note: assuming you’re not looking at these photos on your phone, I encourage you to click on them – especially the larger views – to get the full effect. There are many things that simply can’t be seen even in the blog view.
I’m including this photo above especially for my sister Mary B., who gave us the wire wall rack twenty years ago as a house-warming gift. Salty ocean air is hard on stuff, and almost everything metal disintegrates within a few years, but this stalwart planter is still going strong, which I can only attribute to the love with which it was given to us. Thanks, Mary!
THE SHADY SIDE
When we first arrived and began grooming this yard (which was mostly wildly overgrown at the time with inches-thick, ancient poison ivy vines that Richard took on and conquered the first winter), our next door neighbors had a prized mimosa tree heavy laden with pink powder-puff blossoms that we loved, so we tried for years to get one going, but never with any luck. That original tree, those neighbors, and even the house they lived in are all now long gone, so we had pretty much forgotten about the mimosa, but then, Superstorm Sandy came and went and everything you see in the photo below was covered in salt water for several hours, and somehow some long-dormant seed from that mimosa tree (which was only about 20′ away from the one in this photo) must have sprung to life, and in only two seasons has grown into the sprightly thing you see below, now taller than I am and over 8′ wide. I fully expect it to bloom next year. Angel gifts…
It’s almost impossible to catch it with a camera, but this back garden is at its most enchanting when the sun is just about to set and a golden shaft of light drenches our entire back slope, culminating in the giant, ancient holly tree taking the spotlight in the three photos below. The first view is from the bottom of the hill. The second is from the top of the hill with a late rose or two. (That house you can just barely see beyond the wall in the second photo belongs to our very sweet next door neighbor, the outstanding Broadway director/choreographer, Jerry Mitchell – “Kinky Boots,” “Hairspray (the Musical),” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and, most recently, “On Your Feet” the Gloria and Emilio Estefan story, that just opened to rave reviews.) And, the third photo is the same scene as I am privileged to see it daily from the kitchen sink.
Finally, before moving to the sunny side, here’s a view showing the walks and our street lamp (that Richard bought at a city auction in Evansville, IL in about 1977) as taken from the roof deck about 35′ above.
THE SUNNY SIDE
The trials and travails of Monarch butterflies are well documented as one of the great ecological tragedies of our time, and we take that story particularly personally since Fire Island Pines is right in the center of one of their primary migration paths and, in years past, we used to see them in their thousands both coming and going to Mexico. The ones arriving from the south will sometimes land on the sand of the beach just to catch their breath, before discovering our flowers – their first nourishment for many miles; and the ones heading to Mexico will stop and fill up on our nectars before they bravely head out over the Atlantic (they reacquire land around Cape Hatteras, I gather). Tragically, as a real testament to the diminution of their numbers, last year we only saw two Monarchs in the whole season! So this year, when we had several arrive at the same time in early October, I was thrilled and did my best to get some good photos, though I wasn’t very successful. Here are the best four, and if you look closely, there are actually four butterflies visible in the last one. We can only hope and pray that the destruction of their Mexican habitat will stop, and the milkweed upon which they lay their eggs in this part of the world will see a resurgence. Otherwise, this great, miraculous migration will inexorably come to a lamentable end and the world will be a much poorer place.
Montauk daisies are the only flowers in our garden that actually evolved here, and they happily expand to new corners and beds every year whether we move them or not. They are also the last hurrah in our gardens since they wait a very long time – until the very last weeks before frost – to bloom, when almost all the other flowers have long since departed. They are, in that sense, a delightful encore spreading their reminders of what was in the spring and summer, and what will come again. But, alas, they only grow on Richard’s side – the sunny side – so here are a few of my favorite views from this year’s display.
And here, as promised, is the man, himself, trying to tame the Rose of Sharon arch he has shaped over the “philosophy pit” he constructed in the front yard in the late 90s (seen below). We do have cushions for the curved benches, so if Socrates ever comes for a visit, we’re ready!
As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I do give the flowers every opportunity to serve, and once broken down, they are placed outside the fence to become a marvelous treat for the deer at just the time they’re fattening themselves up for the winter. The second photo below was taken about an hour after the one above, and already much of the feast was devoured.
And, with flowers still holding on even as we prepared to close up and leave the house until April, I decided perhaps it was time to actually cut a few (I almost never do), and maybe combine them with some of the beautiful sprigs of holly that had recently appeared to make a photo for our holiday card, and you can see how I set up the photo here. (We’ve had the bolt of silver lame in the closet for years, and I finally found a use for it!).
Finally, what better way to end than this shot taken from above of the Virginia creeper that saluted us as we closed the gates behind us for the last time. The intensity of the red was even greater than the photo shows, and is, perhaps, the perfect, brilliant counterpoint on the right side of the gatehouse to balance the lavender wisteria covering the left , which will be just as spectacular when it blooms in the spring. But, like us, you’ll just have to wait for that one.
Wishing to each and every one you a Thanksgiving season filled with loving family, tasty food, and God’s own grace. Thank you for taking the time to spend with me, and keep an eye on this space for the winter’s inspirations. There’s more to come.
Sending love to you and yours from my angels and me!
© 2015 George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved.